Atul Gupta says the more than 100 000 e-mails leaked about his family and their businesses are fake – but the journalists who first received them have no doubt about their authenticity.
And they say there are just too many of them to have been manufactured.
Sam Sole, one of the journalists who founded the amaBhungane investigative journalism unit, told The Citizen: “We don’t have any doubt about the authenticity and there is nothing so far that we have published that has been challenged as implicated in the e-mails.”
In a defensive interview with the BBC this week, one of the family’s brothers, Atul, said the leaked e-mails suggesting his family used links to President Jacob Zuma to win contracts and influence decisions were fake.
Gupta, whose family business empire spans media, mining and technology, told the BBC he had no idea where more than 100 000 documents and e-mails released since June had come from.
But Sole, one of the journalists reporting on the issue, said he was not sure on what basis Gupta was questioning the e-mails.
“We are quite sure of its authenticity. We know where they came from and who gave them to us – you can see the internal consistency of material. It’s simply too big to fabricate – so there is nothing we have come across that has raised doubts about it.”
Reports based on the e-mails have drawn several international firms into the scandal and have prompted politicians to call for a judicial enquiry and Zuma’s resignation.
Zuma and the Guptas have denied wrongdoing.
“There’s no authenticity of Gupta leaks at all,” Gupta told the BBC, without suggesting who might have forged them or addressing specific allegations in the paperwork.
A family spokesperson said last month the allegations were false and part of a “blatantly political campaign”.
Gupta said his family also had no role in a publicity campaign by London-based public relations firm Bell Pottinger that cast enemies of Zuma as agents of “white monopoly capital”.
The slogan, aired frequently on Gupta-owned ANN7 television station, quickly gained traction.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and opposition party members have said the campaign inflamed racial tensions.
“White monopoly capital, if you go and research any revolutionary speech in this country, always existed. I don’t know where any of these terms come from, believe me,” Gupta said.
The leaked e-mails suggested Bell Pottinger worked with Zuma’s son Duduzane, who was then a director at a subsidiary of the Gupta-controlled Oakbay company, to create a “narrative that grabs the attention of the grassroots”.
Bell Pottinger ended its work with Oakbay in April and last month apologised for the campaign. The firm is also under investigation by Britain’s Public Relations and Communications Association.
Last month, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane announced a new investigation into state capture.
But the Democratic Alliance said she refrained from providing details of whom or what she intended to investigate.
“Of course we were sceptical, given her track record in office to date,” said DA leader Mmusi Maimane.
“So I wrote to her and asked her to explain the scope of this new investigation. Since the previous public protector’s report, we’ve seen hundreds of thousands of Gupta e-mails directly implicating the president and the three brothers in the looting of our resources. She has enough evidence.” – email@example.com