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Millennium Post

Brothers in trouble

Brothers in trouble
The dream run that the Gupta brothers -- Atul, Rajesh, and Ajay -- had in South African business is all set to be finally over. On Monday evening, the South African National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced that it is looking to seize the entire range of assets and businesses of the Gupta brothers in the country. NPA is ramping up efforts to charge the brothers for their 'organised loot of state resources' and an 'illegitimate monopoly over government contract'. The South African special crime investigation unit, the Hawks, has also confirmed that an arrest warrant will be issued 'for at least one of the Gupta brothers'. At the moment, it is not clear which of the three is likely to be arrested. The Asset Forfeiture Unit will seize around 1.6 billion rands of assets as per the orders granted under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act. Earlier, the Hawks had said that the Guptas were part of its investigations into 'state capture' - the raiding of taxpayers' money by outside interests. In early October last year, the UK daily Financial Times reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had initiated an investigation into dubious cash flows between the company owned by US citizens Ashish and Amol Gupta and Gupta-linked companies in South Africa. Ashish and Anmol are nephews of Atul and Ajay Gupta. The US investigation agency suspects that millions of dollars were laundered through accounts linked to the Guptas. In another revelation by the Financial Times, it said that Britain's banking regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), is conducting an inquiry into two UK banks for their links to the Gupta family businesses and the banks' exposure to illicit funds. The South African investigators also revealed that they are likely to prosecute Duduzane Zuma, son of President Jacob Zuma and a close business partner of the Gupta brothers and Mosebenzi Zwane, the Minister of Mineral Resources of South Africa. Ministers and honchos of state enterprises are being grilled by South Africa's parliament over allegations that they have helped the Guptas engage in organised political corruption.
The UK daily said the FBI was investigating individuals, companies and bank accounts for links with the Gupta family. It doubts suspicious cash flows from the Guptas in South Africa to Dubai and the US. The FBI investigations came at a time when a number of leaked emails in South Africa showed that the Guptas had an undue influence on President Jacob Zuma, his ministers, and honchos of government-owned companies. The South African investigators suspect that millions of dollars of illicit money was made in the process. President Zuma was at the center of state capture and he consulted the Guptas on appointments of certain ministers, a report by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela had revealed. Zuma's son, Duduzani, who has been a business associate of the Guptas is cited in the leaked emails as the main facilitator of the corrupt dealings. Suspecting dubious business dealings, four big banks in South Africa closed all their accounts in March 2016, making it difficult to pay their nearly 8,000 staff. The Gupta brothers arrived in South Africa as ordinary immigrants from India in the 1990s and set up a computer business Sahara. Later, they went on to buy stakes in mining and engineering companies, a newspaper and a 24-hour news TV station. As per Johannesburg Stock Exchange figures for 2016, Atul Gupta had a net worth of around $770m (1.6 billion rand) and was ranked the seventh richest person in South Africa. By July this year, the Guptas were reduced to using just two banks, the Bank of China and the Bank of Baroda. Both have now stopped banking facilities to the Guptas. Beginning August last year, the Gupta brothers were contemplating an exit from South Africa and had begun selling their businesses in the country. They announced that they would sell off their South African assets by the end of the year. Several large companies have been shaken to the core and senior staff has resigned or been suspended for their role in dubious business deals struck by the Gupta brothers. British public relations giant Bell Pottinger is facing the heat for its association with the Gupta family businesses, international accounting firm KPMG finds itself in the firing line and financial consultants McKinsey is in the dock for the services it provided to the companies owned by the Gupta brothers. German software company SAP has begun an internal investigation into alleged kickbacks given by the Gupta family businesses and has suspended four of its managers in South Africa. At this stage, the long-term damage to the reputation of international companies doing business with The Guptas is hard to quantify. The Gupta brothers hail from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh and made it big in South African business by forging close links with the political power in the country, which precisely became the cause of their fall from grace.

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