South African Businessman Held for Questioning After Meeting Fugitive Ajay Gupta in Dubai

South African parliament teams up with Hawks to track down Gupta brothers as they fail to appear before Eskom inquiry committee.


South African businessman Justin van Pletzen, who filmed embattled Indian-origin billionaire Ajay Gupta outside the Indian consulate in Dubai last week, was released following brief arrest in the UAE city, Huffington Post reported. He was released the same day after undergoing a round of questioning in connection with the video, as it would have been considered illegal under the UAE law, the report added.

Pletzen’s arrest was reported by TimesLive, that quoted Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya as saying that Pletzen’s family phoned Dirco on April 10. “According to his family‚ he has been arrested. They say he has informed them that he is in police custody,” Mabaya said in the report.

“We have no reason not to believe the parents here in South Africa. That is why we have dispatched our ambassador and staff,” Mabaya further said, adding that they are expecting more information on his arrest from South African embassy in Dubai. A family member confirmed the arrest as well, the report said. Pletzen and his family are assisting the authorities with their investigation.

Pletzen met Gupta outside the Indian consulate on April 4, and posted the video of the encounter. He asked Gupta about his plans to return to South Africa, and Gupta responded he would come back once he gets a proper response from “authorities.”

According to Pletzen, he could hardly believe it when he called Gupta’s name, he came walking up to him and even shook his hand. He went on to say if it weren’t for strict laws in Dubai, he would have “tackled his head off his shoulders.”

Pletzen said: “I wanted to tackle the head off his shoulders. But then I saw the bodyguard behind him and I thought to myself: If you tackle him you are going to get into big trouble‚ probably going to lose your job‚ probably going to go to jail. And I thought‚ just ask him the question. Ask him when he is going home to go face the music,” the 39-year-old father of two is reported to have said.

Pletzen has been in the United Arab Emirates city since 2016. Gupta is a fugitive from justice, according to Hawks, the South African police’s elite unit.

The Gupta family is in trouble in South Africa, with its parliament committee looking to team up with the Hawks to track down the brothers so they can appear before the Eskom inquiry. Eskom is one of the three South African state-owned companies under investigation for “state capture.”

The brothers,  Ajay, Atul and Rajesh, also failed to appear before the committee along with Duduzane Zuma, a business associate who is also former president Jacob Zyma’s son. Gupta’s lawyer said that he did not receive summons from parliament on behalf of his clients, Fin24 reported.

The summons could not be delivered to Zuma as he was not at the address registered with the electoral commission, Zukiswa Rantho, chairman of Eskom inquiry, added.

The Gupta family has been accused of “state capture,” and face allegations of corruption and influence peddling through their close relationship with former South African president Zuma’s family. Zuma resigned on Feb. 14 after the ruling political party mounted pressure on him following police raids at Gupta family’s Johannesburg home.

The brothers have also missed several deadlines with Indian tax authorities.

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