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India’s diasporic link with South Africa has long been one of romance, of passion stirred in an off-boarded train passenger who would later lead us to freedom from foreign rule. With this week’s arrest in Dubai of Atul and Rajesh Gupta, an unedifying chapter could get added to that fabled story of ties. Along with their brother Ajay, the two business magnates of Indian origin are accused of crony capitalism that enriched them by billions of dollars. In collusion with a South African administration led by Jacob Zuma for nine years till 2018, the Gupta brothers are alleged to have swindled the state via pelf-greased contracts. Owners of an empire that spanned dairy farms and coal mines, they moved from Johannesburg to Dubai when Zuma lost power. A new regime in Pretoria under Cyril Ramaphosa has sought their extradition. Political vendetta? Or corruption exposed?

The Gupta trio deny wrongdoing, but their business record points to murky dealings in South Africa. Allegations of their web of graft may even add up to a case of “state capture". No wonder they’re in the global glare right now. We can only sigh and hope no country ever succumbs so badly to greed.

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