Gupta link to farming scheme

2013-05-26 14:01

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The Gupta family has been linked to a multimillion-rand dairy project in Free State.

The project, which could ultimately cost taxpayers more than R250 million, was introduced by the Free State department of agriculture and rural development in Vrede.

This week, City Press’ sister newspaper, Volksblad, revealed a Gupta business was involved in the farming project.

Free State Premier Ace Magashule is seen as a close ally of the Guptas. He attended the family wedding at Sun City earlier this month, and his son Tshepiso is employed by one of the Gupta companies.

The Free State agriculture department earlier denied that the Guptas were involved in the project, but Gupta family spokesperson Gary Naidoo admitted that one of the companies involved in the project, Linkway, is a subsidiary company of the Gupta empire.

An investigation by Volksblad found that Linkway Trading was one of the initial project consultants on the dairy project.

Documentary evidence connects Linkway to the Guptas. The company’s current directors are Ashok Narayan and Ronica Govender.

Govender is a director in two other Gupta companies – JIC Mining and Sahara Systems.

Volksblad reported that Atul Gupta, one of the three Gupta brothers, attended meetings on the dairy project.

Naidoo said that Linkway was one of several project consultants appointed for a period of three months, for a fee of R30 000 per month.

Naidoo said this was then replaced by a limited service contract for a fixed period. This contract of R8?000 per month, he said, has already ended.

“The total bill was R138 000 (excluding VAT) for the full period,” said Naidoo.

Serious questions have been asked about the viability of the project at Vrede.

“To launch a proper dairy project is no simple task,” said Salam Abram, an ANC MP and a member of the portfolio committee on agriculture.

Moliehi Tlhobelo, the spokesperson for the Free State agriculture department, said the department is providing R114 million a year to the project over a period of three years.

Another company involved in the project is Estina, believed to be the local representative of Indian dairy company Paras.

Mondli Mvambi, the spokesperson for Magashule, said the agriculture department was not involved in the arrangements between Estina and its subcontractors.

This week, the Free State was also mentioned in the investigation report into the Gupta wedding-guest landing at Waterkloof Air Force Base.

The report revealed that an Indian state minister was received by the Free State MEC for agriculture, Msebenzi Zwane, three days prior to the arrival of the Gupta wedding party.

“This Indian minister therefore arrived and departed from South Africa completely separate from the Gupta wedding party, despite attending the wedding at Sun City,” the report reads.

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