Johannesburg Court Grounds Gupta Family’s Private Jet
A Johannesburg court has asked the family to hand over the jet within 15 days, failing which the registration of their luxury jet will be cancelled.
The embattled Gupta family’s controversial jet should be grounded, a Johannesburg court ordered on March 19. The Bombardier Global 6000, whose whereabouts are currently unknown, must be landed and kept at Lanseria airport outside the city, according to the court’s orders. The family has been given 15 days to hand over the jet. The court also “interdicted and restrained” the family from using and possessing the jet, the Guardian reported.
High Court judge Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane ruled: “Within 15 calendar days of the date of this order, the [Gupta company] shall deliver the Bombardier into the custody of Export Development Canada (EDC) at Lanseria international airport.”
Failure to return the jet within the given time would cost the plane its registration certificate, the court ordered.
Canada’s state-run credit agency EDC, along with Stone River, an insurance software company that had been leasing the plane to the Gupta family, petitioned the court to ground the aircraft after the family defaulted on the payment of the $41 million lease fee. As the plane’s public tracking device has been switched off, the EDC expressed fear in the court that the plane can be used to commit criminal offences.
According to the judge, the fact that the Guptas did not want the plane’s location to be known “makes for the pungent possibility that this was done so that the aircraft can be used for unlawful purposes.”
Meanwhile, the Income Tax department in India has given the brothers time till March 26 to appear before the department in connection with allegations involving money laundering and amassing properties in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and NCR, the Times of India reported. The brothers were supposed to appear before the department on March 16. However, through their representative, they asked for time of one month. The department allowed a 10-day extension for them to make an appearance.
“If the brothers still do not turn up then necessary action would be taken as per I-T rules. A representative of the Gupta brothers had come to the I-T office in Dehradun, seeking a month’s time. He did not disclose the reasons for seeking the extension so he was allowed 10 more days,” an official was quoted as saying in the report.
On March 6, income tax sleuths raided the premises of the Gupta brothers in India. The family may have as many as 125 properties spread across India, amassed over the last five to eight years, according to Jagran news publication.
The report further said that authorities seized 300 blank cheques signed by the brothers. The cheques were found with Anil Gupta, the brother-in-law of the Gupta brothers. The authorities are investigating another 12 individuals and entities linked to the family, such as the Bank of India and the Bank of Baroda, for transferring more than R98 million to one of the Gupta brothers.
This comes close on the heels of the Gupta brothers refusing to appear before the South African parliament’s Eskom Inquiry, with lawyers representing them calling it an “exercise in political showboating.” The committee is looking into maladministration at South Africa’s power utility Eskom, where the names of the Gupta brothers have come up during investigation.
The Gupta family has been accused of “state capture” in South Africa. Accusations of corruption and influenced peddling have been leveled against them for their closeness to former president Jacob Zuma, who resigned following a raid at the Gupta family’s home by South Africa’s elite police unit, after being pressured by the ruling party.