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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor


Passport and photo match: Gupta brothers mastermind, Ajay, behind bars

Ajay Gupta is widely considered to have been the 'mastermind' of the family’s corrupt and fraudulent activities in SA.


Reports surfaced over the weekend that one of the notorious Gupta brothers, Ajay, was arrested along with his brother-in-law Anil Gupta at their home in the Dalanwala area of Dehradun on Friday.

A photograph – provided by Indian journalist Ankit Paliwal – shows the duo locked up in a cell in Rajpur, on the outskirts of Dehradun.

The Indian city is less than 100km from the State Capture-accused Guptas’ hometown of Saharanpur, which they swapped for their Saxonworld compound of four mansions in 1993.

gupta compound saxonworld johannesburg
Part of the massive Gupta family compound in Saxonworld. The row of houses cost more than R52 million, and is in one of Johannesburg’s most exclusive suburbs. Picture: Gallo Images/ Sunday Times/ Kevin Sutherland

The family wielded significant political influence during the reign of Jacob Zuma, infamously landing a commercial jet carrying wedding guests at Waterkloof Air Force Base.

The military base near Pretoria is normally reserved for visiting heads of state and diplomatic delegations.

Ajay Gupta arrested after suicide of businessman

Ajay and Anil were arrested after a local businessman, Satyendra Singh Sahni, named them in his suicide note addressed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modiand Uttrakh and Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.

Before leaping to his death from the terrace of a seven-storey apartment building on Friday morning, the builder accused the Guptas of “coercion and interference in his projects”.

It is against the law in India to drive someone to the point of taking their own life and if the two Guptas are found guilty of abetting the suicide, they could face 10 years in jail and a fine.

 The New Indian Express reported that, according to police, the 52-year-old Sahni claimed in his note that the Guptas had been “blackmailing and threatening” him over financial matters related to a construction partnership project.

‘Google me!’

On Saturday, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said it is “unclear” at this stage whether the two arrested Guptas are related to the brothers who are wanted in South Africa over state capture allegations.

Rapport reported on Sunday that Sahni refers to Ajay Gupta’s “extremely dangerous background” as a “fraudster” on his hand-written note.

“Ajay Gupta stressed me and my business partner out because of his background. We were too afraid to say anything in front of him due to his extremely dangerous background. He is a notorious fraudster.

“We are too scared of Ajay and Anil, especially because public funds are involved in this project…I will rather commit suicide,” he wrote.

He further alleged that Ajay dared him to Google him and his South African past.

“Ajay Gupta created too much pressure on me and my partner because of his background and his angry behaviour of threatening … we were not able to say anything in front of him as he had a very dangerous past as he himself told us to check on Google what he has done in South Africa.”

Passport match

In support of the claims that Ajay Gupya has been arrested, Amabhungane reported on the Rajpur police’s First Information Report (FIR).

The document identifies the two accused as Ajay Kumar Gupta, born in 1966, and Anil Kumar Gupta, born in 1963. Copies of passports contained in the #GuptaLeaks investigation confirm that the identifies are correct.

It appears from the report, which is based on a complaint from Sahni’s son, that Ajay was allegedly pressuring his father to transfer his construction company to the Guptas, failing which:

“You should be ready for your son-in-law to go to jail or it will create such a situation that you yourself will commit suicide.”

Justice Department responds to Gupta arrest

Justice Department spokesperson Chrispin Phiri said over the weekend that authorities were aware of the reports of the Guptas’ arrest in India. 

“The [Department] of Justice and Correctional Services has noted reports of the arrest of two Gupta brothers, Ajay and Anil, in India,” he told News24

The Gupta brothers citizenship passports
Gupta brothers Ajay, left, and Atul. Picture: Gallo Images/ City Press/ Muntu Vilakazi

“Our arrest warrants were for Rajesh and Atul Gupta, nevertheless formal processes are under way through the High Commissioner in India to verify and for possible engagement,” he told News24

ALSO READ: ‘National embarrassment’: Political parties slam ‘bungled’ Gupta brothers extradition

State Capture: Gupta mastermind

Ajay is widely considered to have been the mastermind behind the family’s corrupt and fraudulent schemes in South Africa during the reign of Jacob Zuma as president.

His younger brothers – Atul Gupta and Rajesh “Tony” Gupta – fled South Africa in 2018 and were arrested in Dubai in 2022 on charges including fraud and money laundering related to state capture.

In April 2023, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) however rejected South Africa’s extradition request for the brothers, requesting that the Justice Department resubmit a new extradition request.