Gup­tas get mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle to escape protesters

CityPress - - News - ERIKA GIB­SON news@city­press.co.za Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Elaine Swanepoel

The Gupta fam­ily be­lieves the po­lice can no longer pro­tect them from fu­ri­ous protesters and are now keep­ing an ar­moured mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle on their prop­erty in case they need a quick escape.

City Press’ sis­ter news­pa­per, Rap­port, pub­lished pic­tures of the ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tured by a Boks­burg com­pany in which the fam­ily owns a stake.

Yes­ter­day, the fam­ily aban­doned an ur­gent ap­pli­ca­tion in the Pre­to­ria High Court in which they wanted the court to ban any fur­ther protests out­side their Sax­on­wold es­tate.

Ad­vo­cate Fran­cois Botes SC, for the fam­ily, told the court that up to 800 peo­ple had gath­ered out­side the Gup­tas’ home on Fri­day and that po­lice had to fire stun grenades to con­trol the crowd. Botes said the com­plex is oc­cu­pied by 21 fam­ily mem­bers, in­clud­ing a 15-day-old baby.

He said that apart from Fri­day’s vi­o­lence, an in­vi­ta­tion was also cir­cu­lated that in­vited protesters to the “Sax­on­wold she­been”.

The fam­ily ar­gues their right to pri­vacy has been in­fringed be­cause most of the ex­tended fam­ily do not have any­thing to do with “so­called state cap­ture”.

They also be­lieve po­lice can no longer guar­an­tee their safety.

The fam­ily wants an area within a 1km ra­dius around their com­plex de­clared pro­hib­ited ter­rain for any unau­tho­rised protest. How­ever, Botes with­drew the case af­ter he con­ceded to Judge Bill Prinsloo that the case was not ur­gent and that the sit­u­a­tion out­side the house was quiet yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

The fam­ily’s at­tor­ney, Gert van der Merwe, con­firmed to Rap­port that the ar­moured ve­hi­cle that was pho­tographed in the Gup­tas’ luxury com­pound be­longed to them and was be­ing used for “safety pur­poses”. He said Fri­day’s protests proved there was a pos­si­ble se­cu­rity threat to his clients.

When Rap­port pointed out it was il­le­gal to pri­vately own a mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle, Van der Merwe said he couldn’t com­ment be­cause he first needed to con­sult his clients.

The ve­hi­cle is a pro­to­type of the Grif­fin ar­moured ve­hi­cle built in Boks­burg by Sci­pio Tech­nolo­gies, a com­pany reg­is­tered with the na­tional con­ven­tional arms con­trol com­mit­tee. This means the com­pany can man­u­fac­ture ar­moured ve­hi­cles for mil­i­tary use, but they may not be sold for pri­vate use.

The ve­hi­cle re­sem­bles the one Sci­pio Tech­nolo­gies re­cently mar­keted at an arms fair in Abu Dhabi. The com­pany was rep­re­sented by one of the Gupta brothers and Pi­eter van der Merwe, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of an­other Gupta com­pany, VR Laser.

VR Laser is also part of a mul­ti­mil­lion rand con­tract to build the army new fight­ing ve­hi­cles.

Sci­pio is reg­is­tered solely in the name of Sashank Sing­hala. Sing­hala this week de­nied that Sci­pio had any con­nec­tion to the Gup­tas.

But on the com­pany reg­is­ter, its ad­dress is given as the Gup­tas’ res­i­den­tial ad­dress. Sing­hala is the son of Ra­jesh Gupta.

Pi­eter van der Merwe, who hap­pens to be the younger brother of the Gup­tas’ at­tor­ney, did not want to con­firm or deny if the ve­hi­cle on the Gupta prop­erty was built by Sci­pio.

Min­is­ter in the Pres­i­dency Jeff Radebe, who is the chair­per­son of the arms con­trol com­mit­tee, con­firmed the mat­ter would be re­ported to the po­lice. Radebe con­firmed no­body may own a ve­hi­cle in­tended for mil­i­tary use, un­less it had been demil­i­tarised. –

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