India, Oct. 11 — The United States on Thursday sanctioned the powerful Indian-born Gupta brothers of South Africa alleging they ran a “pay-to-play” corruption network that used bribery and profits from government contracts to wield considerable influence on the government and cited their ties to former president Jacob Zuma.

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The three Gupta brothers are accused in South Africa of using their relationship with Zuma to profit financially and influence senior appointments. (Picture courtesy: Who’swho website)

The US treasury said announcing the sanctions Ajay Gupta, the eldest of the three, is the “family patriarch who formulated the family’s corrupt business strategies and controlled its finances“; Atul Gupta, the second brother, oversaw the “family’s outreach to corrupt government officials“; and, Rajesh Gupta, the youngest, “cultivated important relationships with the sons of powerful South African politicians.” Salim Essa, a business associated of the family was also sanctioned.

The three immigrated to South Africa in the 1990s and built a substantial business empire using ties to powerful politicians, including President Zuma, who was sacked by his party, the African National Congress, in 2018. He is currently righting multiple charges, including corruption related to an arms deal.

The Gupta family leveraged its political connections to engage in widespread corruption and bribery, capture government contracts, and misappropriate state assets. Treasury’s designation targets the Guptas’ pay-to-play political patronage, which was orchestrated at the expense of the South African people,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in a statement. “The Guptas and Essa have used their influence with prominent politicians and parties to line their pockets with ill-gotten gains. We will continue to exclude from the US financial system those who profit from corruption.”

The US has sanctioned the brothers under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which also targets corruption abroad. As a consequence of the Thursday action, properties owned by them directly or indirectly in the US stand frozen and American individuals and entities are prohibited from carrying out financial transactions with them.

The Guptas went to South Africa from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh and began by selling shoes. But they used a chance encounter with a top official of South Africa’s African National Congress to build a network of political contacts that went right up to President Zuma’s office.

By 2016, the Guptas were the seventh richest family South Africa with new worth estimated to be $800 million; and they were the only non-white family among the 10 richest.

They have fled to Dubai to escape arrest in South Africa and they have been there since, according to reports.

The US treasury said the Guptas have been implicated in several corrupt schemes in South Africa, allegedly “stealing hundreds of millions of dollars through illegal deals with the South African government, obfuscated by a shadowy network of shell companies and associates linked to the family“.

In a December 2018 profile of the Guptas, the New York Times chronicled their rise from a shoe-store set up downtown by Atul Gupta, the middle brother, in Johannesburg, to the highest echelons of the South African government and the ANC — Ajay Gupta, for instance, was a member of group of advisers Nelson Mandela met every month at his home.

They also built extensive contacts in India and started work on a temple in their hometown Saharanpur which they had to abandon as their fortunes nose-dived along with that of their most powerful ally President Zuma, who was forced to step down.

The Guptas left South Africa in 2018.

Source from HT media