Questions Arise in South Africa as Gupta Family Aide Ashu Chawla Leaves Country

Ashu Chawla, a close associate of South Africa’s controversial Gupta family, who is facing charges of corruption, has left the country amid ongoing investigations.


Ashu Chawla, a co-accused in the Estina Diary Farm corruption case and a key witness in the South African government’s inquiry into the naturalization of the Gupta family, has left the country while on bail, leaving officials in a tizzy.

Chawla, who was born in India, has been a South African citizen for 17 years. He is alleged to be the mastermind who arranged South African citizenship for the Guptas. He is believed to have fled the country last week after he was summoned to testify on the issue involving the controversial family, accused of state capture in South Africa.

Chawla came under direct fire during an investigation overseen by the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, concerning the Guptas’ naturalization as South African citizens, according to a report in the South African. Last week, officials tried to track him down and could not get him, the report said.

“Now that he is a South African, we have to find him by the end of this inquiry. That person becomes very important for Parliament to understand his activities and involvement with officials of the department. If we can’t find him, the only way is to issue out a summons and ask the SAPS to go look for him and find him,” it quoted the Committee’s chairperson Hlomane Chauke as saying.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), however, said that Chawla did not violate his bail conditions by leaving the country, the Business Live reported. His bail conditions were relaxed after the last court hearing on Aug. 21, the publication cited NPA’s Phaladi Shuping as saying.

“The agreement was that every time they [the accused in the matter] want to travel abroad, they must notify the investigating officer of when they are leaving the country and when are they going to return to SA,” Shuping was quoted as saying in the report. “The officer will then give them their passports and they must be returned once they are back in SA. Chawla made the necessary arrangements with the investigating officer and he was allowed to travel abroad.”

Chawla’s lawyer was reported to have said that he was in India and will remain there until November end.

Meanwhile, questions are also being raised about how Chawla was able to get away with using a photo that shows him wearing sunglasses on his identity card.

Chawla, the former CEO of the Gupta-owned Sahara Computers, is one of the eight persons accused in the multi-million-dollar Estina Dairy Farm case, who face charges of corruption and money laundering worth over R220 million, which was meant for poor farmers in Vrede. He is also accused of using his connections in Home Affairs and other state departments to influence the naturalization process in favor of the Guptas.

The Gupta family, comprising the brothers Ajay, Atul, and Rajesh, and their nephew Varun, moved to South Africa from Uttar Pradesh in 1993 and own several businesses across computer, mining, and media sectors. The family is accused for using its political and personal connections with former president Jacob Zuma to further their interests in the country. The Gupta family has been accused of “state capture,” and faces allegations of corruption and influence peddling. Zuma resigned on Feb. 14 after the ruling political party mounted pressure on him following police raids at Gupta family’s Johannesburg home.

The South African parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs is investigating how members of the Gupta family were granted citizenship even though they did not meet the requirements, the Business Live daily said, adding the department had rejected applications for five Gupta family members. The naturalization for Ajay Gupta; his wife, Shivani; his mother, Angoori Gupta; and his two sons, Kamal Kant Singhala and Surya Kant Singhala, was granted after Chawla appealed to Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on behalf of three of them for approval of the naturalization on account of “exceptional circumstances,” local media reported.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *