Who are the Gupta brothers, the Indian-origin businessmen arrested in the UAE?

The arrest comes on the back of a South Africa’s four-year investigation into coup d’état that looked at the Gupta brothers’ ties to former President Jacob Zuma. It is alleged that the three brothers – Ajay, Atul and Rajesh – used their powerful connections to influence high-profile appointments, win opposition and embezzle state funds.

The family fled South Africa in 2018 when public protests over corruption under Zuma – the ‘Zuma Must Fall’ campaign – led to his removal. Because multiple witnesses had implicated them and Zuma in corruption cases, the Guptas had told the commission they were unwilling to return to South Africa to testify.

Who are the Gupta brothers?

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Originally from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta migrated to South Africa in 1993.

Atul Gupta first founded a shoe company and later started Sahara Computers. He then expanded into industries such as mining, air travel, energy and media. His first meeting with Zuma took place before he became president of South Africa, in one of the positions of the Gupta firm.

In 2016, Atul Gupta was among the 10 richest South Africans with his net worth of $700 million. Zuma’s son, Duduzane, was a director of the Guptas’ Sahara Computers. Zuma’s third wife and one of his daughters were also Guptas employees at one point.

The ties between the two were so great that a term – Zuptas – was coined to refer to them together, according to a BBC report.

In India, in 2018, the brothers received ‘Z’ category protection from the government of Uttarakhand, which was an upgrade from the ‘Y’ category coverage they had enjoyed up to that point. The brothers own property in Dehradun and pay the salaries of six staff members assigned to them, a government official said.

What are the allegations against them?

The brothers are said to be involved in many scams dating back to the time after Zuma came to power in 2009. In 2016, South Africa’s ethical watchdog – the Public Protector – released a report stating that favorable contracts had been awarded by state-owned companies to close associates of the Guptas.

Later, the Zondo Commission, named after the judge who presided over it, was set up to investigate “state takeover” – systematic political corruption in favor of private interests – during the Zuma years.

At the center of the Guptas’ coup plan was President Zuma, who must have identified the Guptas at a very early stage as someone whose character was such that they could use him against the people of South Africa, his own country and his own. government to further their own business interests,” the State Capture Commission said in a report.

The Guptas scandals also brought the Bank of Baroda (BoB) into the picture, when it was reported that they had opened bank accounts for the brothers at a time when all South African banks were ceasing to deal with them.

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The elite South African police unit, Hawks, had even raided BoB offices in 2018 while investigating the Guptas’ accounts. The bank later ceased operations in South Africa in 2018, “in line with the bank’s international reorganization plans”.

Meanwhile, in the course of the investigation, Zuma was found guilty of contempt of court and arrested in June 2021 after refusing to comply with a court order to appear before the commission. Zuma then claimed that the commission was biased against him. He is currently on parole, but has been asked to return by court.

Will the Gupta brothers face trial in South Africa?

South Africa had previously appealed to the UN because it does not have an extradition treaty with the UAE to bring the brothers to the country. UAE authorities said they arrested the brothers after receiving a “red message” from Interpol. Red notices are issued for wanted fugitives to alert law enforcement agencies worldwide to arrest such individuals for extradition.

“Talks are underway between several law enforcement agencies in the UAE and South Africa about the way forward. The South African government will continue to cooperate with the UAE,” said a statement from the South African Ministry of Justice.

Analysts said actual progress on the case could take a few more years as the brothers would try to exhaust all available resources to avoid extradition.

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