Business News/ News / World/  ‘Gupta brothers' still South African citizens: Home Affairs Minister Motsoaledi

Amidst reports of Rajesh and Atul Gupta, fugitive Indian-origin businessmen, allegedly acquiring citizenship in Vanuatu, the South African government has stated that they are still recognized as citizens of South Africa, as they possess the country's passports.

As per a report by PTI, This clarification comes in the wake of the UAE rejecting South Africa's request for their extradition, as they are wanted to face charges of fraud and corruption in their home country.

The Gupta brothers, Ajay, Atul, and Rajesh, are wanted in South Africa for their alleged involvement in the embezzlement of billions of rands from state-owned enterprises.

They are accused of leveraging their close relationship with former President Jacob Zuma for personal gains.

The family fled to Dubai five years ago as law enforcement agencies in South Africa closed in on them after Zuma's removal from office by his own party, the African National Congress.

“The Guptas are using South African passports, I just can't tell when, because when you are a South African passport (holder) away from us, we won't know. Our movement control system doesn’t show if you crossed into China (or anywhere else). It doesn’t show," Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Friday.

The minister was reacting to media reports that the Guptas were now citizens of Vanuatu, a small island nation in the South Pacific Ocean east of Australia.

Hailing from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, the Guptas built an empire in the IT, media and mining industries after arriving in South Africa in 1993 to start a shoe shop.

Last week South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said his government was “shocked and dismayed" after the UAE declined the request to extradite the Gupta brothers to face trial in South Africa on fraud and corruption charges.

Motsoaledi said the Guptas had acquired their passports irregularly from a corrupt home affairs official against whom action had been taken.

But the Department has no plans yet to cancel their passports or revoke the citizenship of the Guptas as an appeal to the UAE on the extradition request would then be meaningless, Motsoaledi said.

“We can't take back the passport before we take away the citizenship. We must start there. We are chasing them because we believe they belong to us. So, if we take away that citizenship, do we still have any rights?" the minister said.

According to a report in the Vanuatu Daily Post, Vanuatu's Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) had twice provided information to Vanuatu's Citizenship Office in 2018 regarding the corruption charges against the fugitive Gupta brothers, who are accused of corruption.

The Vanuatu Citizenship Office and the Department of Immigration have refused to confirm or deny reports suggesting that the Gupta brothers are residing in Vanuatu, according to the mentioned report.

Earlier reports had indicated that the Guptas were seeking asylum in African countries such as Cameroon and the Central African Republic.

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Updated: 15 Apr 2023, 11:31 AM IST
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