US flagged Iranian funding of Gupta brothers' uranium mine purchase in S Africa, claims final corruption report

PTI | Johannesburg | Updated: 23-06-2022 18:13 IST | Created: 23-06-2022 18:13 IST
US flagged Iranian funding of Gupta brothers' uranium mine purchase in S Africa, claims final corruption report
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  • South Africa

The United States had raised concerns with South African authorities that the controversial Gupta family were getting funds from Iran to buy the Shiva Uranium Mine in this country, according to the final report on an extensive judicial investigation into corruption.

The final report of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, which was handed over to President Cyril Ramaphosa by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Wednesday, claimed that efforts by the top three officials at the State Security Agency (SSA) to investigate the Indian-origin Gupta family were thwarted, allegedly by the then minister of the agency, Siyabonga Cwele.

Under the leadership of Director General Jeff Maqetuka, Head of the Foreign Branch Moe Shaik and Head of the Domestic Branch Gibson Njenje, the SSA wanted to conduct investigations into the Guptas, it said.

The Commission handed over its final reports to President Ramaphosa after a four-year investigation in which the three Gupta brothers – Ajay, Atul and Rajesh – featured prominently about their alleged looting of billions of rands from state enterprises, allegedly because of their closeness to former president Jacob Zuma.

Atul and Rajesh are now believed to be in custody in Dubai, awaiting the finalisation of an extradition request by South Africa.

The entire Gupta family, originally from Saharanpur in India, fled the country when the net closed in on them as pressure mounted on Zuma, who was eventually ousted by his own African National Congress that had appointed him to a second term.

“In the Commission's view, a strong case is made, … that there were deliberate efforts made … to capture national intelligence; furthermore, efforts were made to thwart investigations into the Guptas,” the report said.

“As to what initially sparked interest in the Guptas, Ambassador Maqetuka confirms the evidence by Mr Shaik and Mr Njenje that it arose because the Americans had raised the concern that the Guptas were getting funds from Iran to buy the Shiva Uranium Mine.

“The second angle from which the need arose to investigate the Guptas, arose from the issue of (Transport) Minister (Fikile) Mbalula having said that he was informed of his impending appointment as Minister by the Guptas even before he was told by the former President.

“It needed to be investigated for two reasons according to Ambassador Maqetuka. Firstly, to them, for Minister Mbalula to be informed in advance by an outsider posed a serious security risk. Secondly, there was a need to protect the former President as that would tarnish his name,” the report said.

“A further concern was that, by informing Minister Mbalula in advance of his appointment, the Guptas would be creating a dependency by Mr Mbalula on them as their advance knowledge of his appointment would make him feel beholden to them. This kind of undue influence over the Minister of Sport was serious, as the Guptas had interests in businesses that included cricket stadia,” the report added.

At one stage, the Guptas had attempted to rename all the major cricket stadiums in South Africa under their IT brand, Sahara.

The Commission was also told that Minister Susan Shabangu, then Minister of Mining, was summoned to a meeting with Ajay Gupta, which would have been held at a hotel, but the venue was changed to the official residence of President, Mahlamba Ndlopfu, in Pretoria.

The ministerial delegation was ushered into the President’s study by Ajay Gupta, who allegedly pressured the minister into fast-tracking mineral rights for his company.

“The fact that the meeting was held at the President's official residence, and in his absence was, in Mr Njenje's view, for the Guptas to show how powerful they were; to show a government minister that she could be called to the President's study in his absence,” the report stated.

The SSA heads did eventually meet with Zuma to explain the need to investigate the Guptas because of the American concern and the issue relating to Mbalula's appointment.

They conceded at the Commission that although Zuma never directly instructed them to stop the investigation, it was clear from what he said and his body language that he disapproved of the investigation.

The Commission found that Zuma did not want the Guptas to be investigated.

“President Zuma defended his friendship with the Guptas and their close association with him. President Zuma said that there was no need to investigate the Guptas as they were ''good people'' with whom he had a good relationship,” the report concluded.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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