In­dian ho­tels knew all about Gup­tas’ pals

The Times (South Africa) - - NEWS - KYLE COWAN

HO­TEL ex­ec­u­tives in In­dia knew the Gup­tas had “open-door ac­cess” to the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing President Ja­cob Zuma, months be­fore the re­la­tion­ship be­tween “No 1”and the con­tro­ver­sial fam­ily be­came a topic of daily con­ver­sa­tion.

Leaked e-mails have re­vealed how Sm­riti Hin­duja, as­sis­tant sales man­ager of Oberoi ho­tels in Mum­bai, briefed staff from two ho­tels in early Oc­to­ber 2012 on the im­mi­nent ar­rival of guests from Gupta-owned Sa­hara.

Hin­duja laid down sev­eral rules for the visit, which spanned sev­eral Oberoi ho­tels from Oc­to­ber 15 to 19 2012, in­clud­ing what “VIP Rajesh Tony Gupta” pre­ferred.

“Please note this is a VVIP group and Mr Rajesh Gupta reg­u­larly stays at the Pres­i­den­tial Suite of the Taj in New Delhi, hence the re­quest if (sic) he is han­dled with kid gloves,” Hin­duja wrote.

Among the many de­mands to sat­isfy the guests, which in­cluded Zuma’s son, Duduzane, and Free State MEC for agri­cul­ture at the time Mosebenzi Zwane, was that the mini-bar in Gupta’s room was the only one to stay un­locked.

“Sa­hara Group is based out of South Africa owned by three broth­ers — Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta. To­day the Gup­tas are known for their bil­lion­aire life­styles and open­door ac­cess to the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing President Ja­cob Zuma.”

The e-mail is con­tained in a string of mes­sages for­warded to Sa­hara CE Ashu Chawla by Hin­duja and this one had an in­voice at­tached.

Although Zuma has de­fended his re­la­tion­ship with the Gupta fam­ily on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions and de­nied they held any in­flu­ence over the ap­point­ment of cab­i­net min­is­ters, this e-mail shows that even in 2012 the Gup­tas’ re­la­tion­ship with the president was well known.

The Sunday Times pre­vi­ously re­ported that Zuma planned to set­tle in Dubai to live in a lux­ury R135-mil­lion man­sion bought by the Gupta fam­ily.

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