How Gupta brothers from India landed South Africa's ruling party in its biggest crisis

WION Web Team
NEW DELHIEdited By: Nikhil PandeyUpdated: Jun 07, 2022, 09:22 AM IST

Rajesh 'Tony' Gupta (left) and Atul Gupta. Photograph:(Twitter)

Story highlights

The Guptas owned a number of businesses that had lucrative contracts with South African government departments and state-owned corporations.They also put many Zuma family members in high-ranking posts, including the president's son, Duduzane. 

Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, the former President of South Africa, has faced numerous legal issues before, during, and after his presidency, including rape charges, embezzlements, corruption, and fraud, to name a few.

He is currently serving a 15-month contempt of court term.

The connection of the Gupta family is the most conspicuous of all the corruption charges levelled against him. 

Who are Gupta brothers?

This family, with their roots in Indian State Uttar Pradesh's Saharanpur, migrated to South Africa in 1993. The prominent members of this family are the three brothers--Ajay, Atul, and Rajesh Gupta as well as Atul's nephews Varun and US-based Ashish and Amol. 

In 1993, Atul founded Sahara Computers, the family's first business in South Africa.

Coal mines, computers, newspapers, and a media outlet are among the Gupta family's companies in South Africa today. 

Based on JSE-listed holdings, Atul Gupta became the seventh-wealthiest person in South Africa in 2016, with an estimated net worth of R10.7 billion (US$773.47 million).

Bongi Ngema-Zuma, one of President Zuma's wives, worked for the Gupta-controlled JIC Mining Services. .

His daughter, Duduzile Zuma, worked as a director at Sahara Computers, the Guptas' initial venture in South Africa.

Duduzane Zuma, his son, was a director of a few Gupta-owned enterprises before resigning in 2016 amid public outrage. 

The 'Zuptas'

The Zumas and the Guptas, the two families became so closely linked that a joint term was coined for them - the "Zuptas".

Atul Gupta
South Africa's Economic Freedom Fighters members carry a placard showing Atul Gupta, at the 2017 Zuma Must Fall protest in Cape Town. (Image: Discott via Wikimedia Commons CC 4.0)

Limelight and controversies

Guptagate: When a chartered plane transporting guests for the wedding of their sister's daughter landed at the Waterkloof Air Base near Pretoria in 2013, the Gupta brothers caused a stir. Only visiting heads of state and diplomatic delegations are allowed to use the base. 

The incident prompted a significant outcry, so much so that it was dubbed "Guptagate" by the South African media.

Influence over Cabinet appointments: Several claims about the Guptas' influence over cabinet nominations in South Africa surfaced in 2016.

Former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor said that the Guptas offered her the position of Minister of Public Enterprises in 2010 if she could arrange for South African Airways to drop their India route and enable Gupta-linked airlines to take it instead. 

They were summoned in 2017 over the Vrede farm project, in which a trail of hacked emails linked the Guptas to government funds routed into Atul Gupta's account. 

Gupta family
Police raid the home of the Gupta family, friends of President Jacob Zuma, in Johannesburg, South Africa, February 14, 2018. (Reuters Photo)

Interpol red notice: The Gupta Brothers have been summoned by South African prosecutors after they were reportedly at the centre of a web of corruption during Zuma's administration. Interpol has issued a red alert against two of the brothers, Rajesh and Atul, as well as their wives, according to the main investigator, Hermione Cronje. 

What is a red notice?

According to Interpol, a red notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.

Present Status: 

The South African government on June 7 said that law enforcement authorities in the UAE had arrested Rajesh Gupta and Atul Gupta of the Gupta family. It remains unclear why the third brother, Ajay, was not arrested.Their assets have already been blocked by South African courts.

Despite the fact that the arrests were generally applauded, experts warned that the public should not expect a rapid resolution to the case against the Guptas, which might take years as they exhaust all legal options to avoid extradition.

(With inputs from agencies)