Gup­tas’ dou­ble whammy

Broth­ers’ bid to cross-ex­am­ine wit­nesses de­nied and busi­ness goes un­der the ham­mer


THE Gupta fam­ily yes­ter­day suf­fered a dou­ble whammy af­ter the Com­mis­sion into State Cap­ture re­jected their at­tempt to cross-ex­am­ine wit­nesses who have tes­ti­fied against them, and the as­sets of one of their com­pa­nies were set to go un­der the ham­mer.

This was while MPs in Par­lia­ment grilled of­fi­cials from the Depart­ment of Home Af­fairs re­gard­ing the nat­u­ral­i­sa­tion of mem­bers of the fam­ily.

The MPs were ex­pected to call in law en­force­ment agen­cies to help them ver­ify that se­cret in­for­ma­tion might have been shared with a Gupta as­so­ciate by a Home Af­fairs of­fi­cial.

MPs were re­fer­ringg to an email, iden­ti­fied from the so-called Gupta-leaks, sent by Home Af­fairs of­fi­cial Gideon Chris­tians to Ashu Chawla, re­veal­ing sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion about high-level South African of­fi­cials de­ployed in sev­eral coun­tries.

Chawla was the for­mer chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Sa­hara Com­put­ers and a Gupta as­so­ciate who was the main in­ter­me­di­ary for the broth­ers and Home Af­fairs of­fi­cials.

The in­for­ma­tion in­cluded of­fi­cials’ ad­dresses, their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion al­lowances and their salaries.

Chris­tians, who had been re­posted to New Delhi in 2015, “ac­cepted” that he could have sent Chawla in­ter­nal in­for­ma­tion on Home Af­fairs mat­ters re­gard­ing his ob­jec­tions to his be­ing re­posted to In­dia.

He could, how­ever, not recall the spread­sheet of in­for­ma­tion on other of­fi­cials posted at mis­sions in 63 coun­tries. “I don’t re­mem­ber that. I hon­estly don’t,” he said.

At this point, Hlo­mane Chauke, the in­quiry’s chair­per­son, in­ter­vened, say­ing: “This is tan­ta­mount to trea­son to have such in­for­ma­tion in pri­vate hands.”

Chauke as­cer­tained Chris­tians’s email ad­dress and said it cor­re­sponded to that in the leaked cor­re­spon­dence.

“This is a mat­ter we would re­quire as Par­lia­ment to im­me­di­ately get the nec­es­sary law en­force­ment agency to look into this is­sue. Who­ever is in pos­ses­sion of this in­for­ma­tion… it is highly sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion that not even these MPs have,” said Chauke. “We need to get Chawla back into the coun­try as a mat­ter of ur­gency to ap­pear be­fore this com­mis­sion.”

Chauke said the com­mit­tee would li­aise with the Speaker’s of­fice to fa­cil­i­tate a sum­mons to be is­sued for Chawla to ap­pear be­fore the com­mit­tee.

Chris­tians ad­mit­ted to MPs he knew Chawla well and main­tained to a friendly re­la­tion­ship. He also ad­mit­ted send­ing his CV to Sa­hara com­put­ers af­ter he re­turned to South Africa in 2015, be­fore be­ing re­posted to New Delhi, but said it was be­cause he was frus­trated with his job at Home Af­fairs at a refugee of­fice in Cape Town.

Mean­while, Park Vil­lage Auc­tions and GoIn­dus­try DoveBid Liq­uid­ity Ser­vices has an­nounced it will auc­tion VR Laser Ser­vices’s as­sets next week.

The com­pany, owned by Ajay Gupta’s el­dest son, was among sev­eral Gupta-owned com­pa­nies that filed for busi­ness res­cue ear­lier this year.

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