Ajay Gupta on Run, South African Police Issue Arrest Warrant
South African President Jacob Zuma resigned following charges of corruption over links with the Indian-origin Gupta family.
As the baton of leadership changed in South Africa with President Jacob Zuma’s resignation on the night of Feb. 14, South Africa police got an arrest warrant for Ajay Gupta, the most powerful member of the scandal-hit Gupta family. Ajay Gupta is believed to be on the run with a team of heavily armed bodyguards, Times Live reported.
South African police’s elite crime unit, the Hawks, on Feb. 15 arrested three people following a raid on the Guptas’ home in the suburb of Saxonwold in Johannesburg. The Indian-origin family faces allegations of corruption and “influence peddling” due to their close ties to Zuma.
Ajay Gupta is now a fugitive from the law, the South African media reported citing Hawk officials. Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said: “As far as our team investigating state capture is concerned, he is a fugitive from the law. We spoke to his lawyers — he was meant to be surrendered but never did. We have issued a warrant of arrest for him. Those protecting him must know they are protecting a wanted suspect. They will be charged with aiding and abetting a suspect.”
Mulaudzi added that they have flagged border posts and hope to capture Ajay Gupta soon. “We are making a plea so that we can avoid any embarrassment that he should hand himself over as soon as possible,” he said.
Ajay Gupta’s brother Atul is also being sought, according to some reports. Their nephew Varun Gupta has also been charged with corruption, fraud and theft. The charges relate to the alleged 220 million rand ($19 million) theft from the Free State agricultural department. Varun appeared before the Bloemfontein Magistrate Court on Feb.15 along with the co-accused, Gupta family lieutenants Ronica Ragovan, Ashu Chawla, Nazeem Howa, Kamal Vasrum, Free State agricultural officials Peter Thebetha and Takisi Janki Masiteng and chief of staff of national mining department Sylvia Dlamini.
Howa, Chawla, Vasrum and Gupta were released on 2,00,000 rand bail each. Thebetha, Masiteng and Dlamini were each released on 10 000 rand bail, as per reports. They are due to appear in court again on Aug. 17.
The Gupta family owns a range of business interests in South Africa, including computing, mining, air travel, energy, technology and media. The Gupta family are close associates of the 75-year-old former president ,as his son, daughter and one of the president’s wives have for worked for the family firm.
Zuma stepped down from the president’s position on Feb. 14 night after the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party escalated pressure on him. Business executive Cyril Ramaphosa was elected by the Parliament as the fifth post-apartheid President on Feb.15.
While Ramaphosa’s long term goals involve progress in numerous sectors in South Africa, he, along with ANC, will be looking into charges against Zuma. Zuma denied any wrongdoing. The statement from ANC read: “The African National Congress has full confidence in President Ramaphosa to build on the foundation laid and focus the country on accelerating our program of fundamental and radical socio-economic transformation.”