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Who are Gupta brothers, who made a big journey to South Africa from India’s Uttar Pradesh?

Protesters carry a cardboard mock up coffin reading ‘Run Guptas run’ and with the names of the people implicated in the Public Protector “State Capture” report as members and supporters of the South African opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), demonstrate against South African president Jacob Zuma and in support of the release of the South African Public Protector “State Capture” report in Pretoria on November 2, 2016. (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

THE South African government has confirmed that the wealthy Gupta brothers were arrested in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday (6), media reported.

The brothers Atul and Rajesh Gupta are facing charges of political corruption and making political profits through influential ties with former South African president Jacob Zuma. They denied the chargeds against them.

ALSO READ: UAE arrested Gupta brothers, wanted on corruption charges: South Africa

It was though not clear why the third brother Ajay was not arrested, the Press Trust of India reported.

South Africa to file extradition request for Gupta brothers within 60 days

Former South Africa president Jacob Zuma
Former South African president Jacob Zuma (Photo by JACKIE CLAUSEN/AFP via Getty Images)

The accused brothers, who originate from India, fled the African nation after a judicial inquiry on their involvement in corruption four years ago.

Who are the Gupta brothers?

All the three brothers went to South Africa from Saharanpur in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in the early 1990s.

Haranath Ghosh, their family spokesperson, said that the Guptas’ father, Shiv Kumar Gupta, had asked Atul to move to South Africa as he thought the country, which was a newly independent one then, would become the “America of the world”, the BBC reported in 2018.

Atul reportedly set up his family business in South Africa. His Sahara Computers, which was a small venture, soon grew and the brothers set up the Sahara Group (not connected to the Indian conglomerate by the same name). The company dealt with issues related to air travel, mining, energy, media and technology besides computers.

By 2018, the Sahara Group of the Guptas reportedly had an annual turnover of about 200 million rand and 10,000 staff members.

The BBC reported that the Gupta brothers became close to Zuma, who served as the president between 2009 and 2018, when the latter attended one of the company’s annual events as a guest.

It was also learnt that Bongi Ngema-Zuma, worked as a communications officer at the JIC Mining Services Company, which was controlled by the Guptas.

The family reportedly gifted her a mansion in Pretoria worth 3.8 million rand. The Indian family, however, denied the report.

One of Zuma’s daughters worked as a director at Sahara Computers but she quit later. One of the former president’s sons was also the director of one of the Gupta-owned companies but he too stepped down in 2016.

The Guptas were accused of paying fat bribes to bag state contracts, influencing high-profile government officials and embezzling state funds. They were also accused of laundering money to their home country.

In 2018, tax officials raised Gupta brothers’ properties in multiple cities, including New Delhi, the BBC reported.

The issue that the Gupta brothers wielded enormous political influence in South Africa came to the fore in March 2016 when South Africa’s former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas said the family had approached him the year before and offered to promote him to become a minister.

A similar allegation was brought against the brothers by former African National Congress (ANC) parliamentarian Vytjie Mentor, who claimed that she was offered the key post of public enterprise minister at a meeting in their Saxonwold mansion in 2010. Zuma was reportedly present on the occasion.

The Guptas were also accused of getting rid of those who may have obstructed their business interests.

The family triggered a controversy in 2013 during the wedding of Vega Gupta, daughter of the Gupta brothers’ sister Achla. An aircraft carrying the family’s wedding guests landed in the military base at the Waterkloof Air Base near Pretoria. South Africa’s opposition parties accused the Guptas of abusing power after this event. The guests at the wedding were also given a police escort to a luxury holiday resort.

Atul Gupta later issued an apology for the incident but insisted that they had done nothing wrong and was only “trying to give (our) daughter… a memorable wedding on South African soil”.

The Gupta family went into self-exile in Dubai, UAE, in 2018 after Zuma was ousted from the government and a probe was initiated against them.

Current South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government ratified an extradition treaty with the UAE in April last year hoping that it would lead to the Guptas’ return to face charges.

Discussions are currently underway between various law enforcement agencies of the two countries, the South African Department of Justice and Correctional Services said in a statement on Monday, CNBC TV18 reported.

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