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The Guptas: 3 brothers at heart of S.Africa graft scandal

Political drama, corruption allegations and even wedding party controversies — the Gupta family, one of South Africa’s wealthiest, has been accused of wielding undue influence behind the scenes.

Now the immigrant family is at the centre of a row battering President Jacob Zuma after allegedly offering key government jobs to those who might help the Gupta family’s business interests.


The corruption scandal has renewed scrutiny about Zuma’s ties with Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, three brothers from the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Led by Atul, they arrived in South Africa in 1993 as white-minority apartheid rule crumbled and a year before Nelson Mandela won the country’s first democratic elections.

As the country opened up to foreign investment, the Guptas — previously small-scale businessmen in India — built a sprawling empire in computers, mining, media, technology and engineering.

The New Age, a pro-government newspaper, was launched in 2010, and the 24-hour news channel ANN7 started broadcasting in 2013.

They also developed close links with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, and particularly with Zuma, well before he became president in 2009.


Zuma’s son Duduzane is a director of the Gupta’s Sahara Computers, named after their hometown of Saharanpur, and has been a director of several other Gupta companies.

Zuma’s third wife Bongi Ngema and one of his daughters have also been Gupta employees.

Deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas claimed in March that the Guptas had offered him the post of finance minister, providing the first public testimony of their alleged involvement in cabinet appointments.

Last week the BBC reported that little-known ANC lawmaker David van Rooyen visited the Guptas’ home the night before his appointment as finance minister in December.

Mines Minister Mosebenzi Zwane is also seen as close to the Guptas.

Both the Guptas and Zuma, who has described the brothers as friends, deny any wrongdoing.


Now in their 40s, the Guptas hold court at their residential and business headquarters in a huge high-security compound in Saxonwold, an upmarket district of Johannesburg.

It has a helicopter pad and they reportedly travel with their own chefs and bodyguards.

But as pressure has increased on them this year, they were reported to be moving their base to Dubai and to have bought a large residence in the city.

They said in August that they plan to sell their South African assets.

Public anger towards the family soared in 2013, when a jet carrying 217 foreign guests to a Gupta wedding landed at Waterkloof Air Force base, outside Pretoria.

The airport is a military facility normally used to receive heads of state.


The Guptas complained voraciously when South Africa’s largest banks closed their accounts earlier this year.

The family lobbied unsuccessfully for Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who is at loggerheads with Zuma, to intervene.

But on Friday Gordhan disclosed in a court affidavit that the Gupta family and associated companies were implicated in “suspicious transactions” worth $480 million over four years.

On Monday the family denied reports that money had been removed from the rehabilitation fund of a mine they bought, saying the claim was “another example of groundless innuendo”.

They also vowed to respond this week to Gordhan’s affidavit.

Zuma last week blocked the release of a watchdog’s report into his relationship with the Guptas.

A court hearing into the case is due next month.