The Guptas' war on two fronts

File: Atul Gupta and President Jacob Zuma. The US and UK enforcement agencies are investigating the politically connected family. Photo: The Presidency

I’m sure you’ve heard by now, US and UK law enforcement bodies are investigating South Africa’s infamously renowned Gupta family.

News broke on Thursday through the Financial Times (FT) that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is probing the Gupta brothers’ US-citizen nephews, Ashish and Amol. They’re directors at a consultancy firm in Houston, Texas called Brookfield Consultants. This company had been receiving money from a bank account in every South African politicians second home these days, Dubai.

The FT reveals that surprise surprise, Accurate Investments, that’s making the payments to the US firm, is tied to the Guptas.

In happier times, Atul Gupta with President Jacob Zuma and now Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba. (Photo: GCIS)

The Americans don’t take too kindly to anyone using their currency for anything remotely illicit. They take it as a slight upon their flag and pursue with much vigour anyone and any company, no matter where they may find themselves in the world. The US’ Foreign Corrupt Practices Act makes it almost impossible for anyone to hide from the long arm of the FBI.

If almost every bank and auditor in South Africa dropping the Guptas wasn’t enough, their headache was about to become a migraine yesterday. Famed anti-apartheid activist and British politician Lord Peter Hain asked UK authorities to investigate “corruption in South Africa on an industrial scale”. That country’s Financial Conduct Authority, Serious Fraud Office and National Crime Agency are now probing financial institutions Standard Charted, HSBC, and Bank of Baroda, for illicit money flows.

Seen as the family patriarch, Ajay Gupta sits with his brother Atul and associate Jagdish Parekh. (Photo: Gallo Images/Business Day/Martin Rhodes)

Hain conservatively puts the amount of money that’s flowed out of our country to various destinations, Hong Kong and Dubai, in particular, at R7-billion. It’s perhaps important to write that out as a figure to stress, if that’s even necessary, how many zeros are involved here: R7 000 000 000.

That’s almost 30 Nkandla payments of R250 million. Or that money could fix the 133 KwaZulu-Natal schools recently damaged by storms 51 times over.

The Nkandla homestead of President Jacob Zuma complete with “fire pool”. (Photo: AFP / Stringer)

It’s more money than any of us mere mortals will see in a hundred lifetimes.

I’ve purposefully entitled this piece a war for the Guptas on two and not three fronts because…well, the home front is as quiet as an e-tag sales office.

How is it possible that international law enforcement have been able to get the ball rolling so quickly? I’ve personally been at numerous police stations where countless political parties and civil society organisations have laid charges against the Guptas and their associates. The Hawks – South Africa’s elite crime fighting body – has been “investigating”, or should have been anyway, for years. And what’s that saying? Dololo so far.

The Economic Freedom Fighters at the Rosebank police station laying charges against the Guptas and their associates including Duduzane Zuma, on 16 October 2016. (Photo: Michael Appel)

The Hawks yesterday confirmed it’ll cooperate if any request is forthcoming from the US or UK. But colour me sceptical I’m afraid. Hawks, it’s simple. We don’t need to know the nitty-gritty about your investigations. But, and I dare say, your overseas counterparts are making you look like inept amateurs.

Call a press conference, restore some much-needed confidence in the organisation. Tell us how far along your investigations are, why they’re taking so long, when we can expect the various dockets to be handed to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). As for the NPA, don’t even get me started.

The National Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Shaun Abrahams. (Photo: eNCA)

As a journalist I see the scepticism, both from journalists and the public, regarding the South African government’s fight against corruption on a daily basis. People are tired, angry and frustrated.

People have corruption fatigue. The culture of impunity that has been fostered under the current administration boggles and infuriates the mind. The time and public money wasting that goes into probing criminality with no tangible outcomes should be a crime in itself.

Morale is low. I don’t believe I’m alone when I say we desperately need a win in the fight against state capture and the perverse levels of corruption and criminality. That win couldn’t come soon enough.


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