Gupta brothers to sell business interests in South Africa
Family accused of using close relationship with president Zuma to secure favours
South African president and ANC leader Jacob Zuma: faced accusations, which he denied, that the Gupta brothers were offering senior government posts in return for favours. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
Three Indian brothers accused of using their close relationship with South African president Jacob Zuma to illegally secure contracts and make dodgy deals with state-owned companies have confirmed they are selling their local business interests.
The Gupta family, who moved to South Africa in the 1990s, announced at the weekend that for the good of the country they intended to sell all their shareholdings in South Africa-based companies by the end of this year.
“As a family, we now believe that the time is right for us to exit our shareholding of the South African businesses which we believe will benefit our existing employees, and lead to further growth in the businesses,” a Gupta statement said.
The brothers are talking to several international buyers, they maintained, and they would make further announcements soon.
The move has come as Ajay, Atol and Rajesh have come under increased pressure over their business dealings, with the trio’s companies facing numerous investigations as to the circumstances surrounding business deals they have with the state.
Under the umbrella of their holding company Oakbay Investments, the Guptas have interests in mining and media, among other things.
Things started to go wrong for the Guptas in March when deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas publicly stated that a member of the Gupta family had offered him his boss’s job two weeks before then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was surprisingly removed from the post in early December.
After that, a number of high-profile members of the ruling party made similar claims that the brothers were offering senior government posts in return for favours, prompting accusations they were attempting to capture the state for their own ends.
The Guptas have denied any wrongdoing, as has Mr Zuma, although both sides have confirmed they are friendly.
However, the family have had many of their local bank accounts frozen and their Oakbay Resources & Energy faced suspension from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance has said the Guptas’ move should be viewed as “rats abandoning a sinking ship”.
“Things have evidently reached a ‘tipping point’ and the Gupta family have decided that it’s in their best interests to abandon ship in South Africa,” the party said.
In recent weeks it has come to light that a National Treasury report has claimed the state-owned electricity provider Eskom paid more than R130-million (€8.1 million) to a Gupta-owned company, Tegeta Exploration and Resources, for useless coal.
The Sunday Times recently reported that National Treasury was planning to go to court over the state-owned military company Denel’s partnership with another Gupta company, VR Laser Asia.
Meanwhile finance minister Pravin Gordhan, the man leading many of Gupta investigations, has been fighting for his political life.
A special investigations unit in the police is publicly suggesting he is involved in setting up rogue spying units in the South African Revenue Services without actually laying charges against him.
The move is widely seen as an attempt to harass the finance minister for overseeing the aforementioned investigations.