While the hasty sale of some of their South African assets is sparking fears among parliamentarians that the Guptas are preparing to flee the country, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned that the family will have no place to hide from possible prosecution.
“No family is above the law. Whoever is found to have committed any misdemeanour will be investigated and dealt with. Nobody should ever think they can escape the long arm of the law,” he told MPs during a question and answer session yesterday.
Ramaphosa was responding to opposition parties’ concerns that the Guptas were offloading their assets ahead of their apparent departure out of the country to escape prosecution for alleged state capture.
The family recently sold its media businesses, ANN7 and The New Age newspaper, to former government spokesperson Mzwanele Manyi for R450 million, which is believed to have been entirely funded through vendor financing.
It was further reported yesterday that the Gupta brothers recently finalised the sale of mining company Tegeta Exploration and Resources to a little-known Swiss company specialising in fashion for R2.9 billion.
Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan told the portfolio committee that an investigation into the disposal of the assets should begin as a matter of urgency.
“We should have our urgency fuelled by the successive disposals within 48 hours of South African assets,” Gordhan said.
He added that the sales were “not just some ordinary citizen buying and selling something”.
“These are all entities and companies implicated in state capture.”
Tegeta has been accused of acquiring more than R2 billion in coal supply contracts to Eskom without participating in any tender processes. Moreover, Tegeta was accused of supplying coal of poor quality, which was flagged in assessment reports by Eskom technicians as being unsuitable to use in power generation at its stations.
DA MP Natasha Mazzone, speaking in the same committee meeting as Gordhan, raised the prospect that the Guptas were selling up prior to leaving the country for Dubai.
“As far as I know‚ we don’t have an extradition treaty with the UAE. So, if they leave South African soil, how are we going to get them back here?” she asked.
The acting chairperson of parliament’s portfolio on public enterprises, Zukiswa Rantho, said it was eager to “urgently start with investigations into the state capture allegations” and confirmed that the main focus of the probe would be Eskom, Transnet and Denel.
She said the committee had noted the “hasty disposal” of the media assets of the Gupta family and would take legal advice on how this might impact on the work of the committee.
Ramaphosa later assured MPs that he “took comfort in the fact that the president is going to appoint a commission of inquiry” into state capture.
“These matters are happening out in the open and in the end, there will be no place to hide,” he said. “Once that commission is set up, it will have the power and the authority to scrutinise everything. In the end, it will be an independent commission that will do its work as effectively as possible.”
The Gupta family stand accused of influencing the appointment of individuals into key positions in state-owned entities with the view of directing billions of rands in contracts to its companies and those with close links to them.
All major banks where Gupta business-owned accounts were held were closed, forcing the family to bank its money in India. – firstname.lastname@example.org