Gupta air force base landing probed

By Drum Digital
02 May 2013

International relations and the taxman are investigating how a jet chartered by the Gupta family was allowed to land at Waterkloof Air Force Base.

Neither the international relations and co-operation department nor the presidency granted executive authority for the aircraft to land at the base, departmental spokesman Clayson Monyela said on Thursday.

"Preliminary investigations have revealed the need to probe the circumstances under which the clearances for the aircraft to land were secured," Monyela said in a statement.

"We are looking into why the airplane landed at the base and why custom officials were not requested to be at the base," SA Revenue Service spokesman Adrian Lackay said in a separate statement.

Monyela said the Chief of State Protocol, ambassador Bruce Koloane, had been suspended while it conducted its investigation.

International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane had placed him on compulsory leave with immediate effect. His deputy would assume his responsibilities.

The Gupta family, which owns The New Age newspaper and Sahara Computers, is celebrating the wedding of Vega Gupta, 23, to Indian-born Aaskash Jahajgarhia at Sun City, North West.

A Gupta family spokesman said on Tuesday that the authorities had given permission for the jet, carrying guests to a family wedding, to land at the air force base.

"The Waterkloof [Air Force Base] was used as Lanseria airport could not accommodate the size of the jet chartered by the family," said family spokesman Haranath Ghosh.

"The permissions were applied for and granted to the Indian High Commission and not the family," he said.

He said all transport arrangements had been transparently made.

"Naturally, suitable protocol was used to receive and transport the foreign ministers to the wedding," he said.

The SA National Defence Force said on Tuesday that it was not aware of any permission granted for the Gupta family to use the base.

The Times newspaper reported on Thursday that 20 flying squad members, 10 flying squad cars and 40 counter-assault and VIP protection officers escorted wedding guests from the base in a convoy of white Range Rovers.

According to the newspaper, at least 40 counter-assault and VIP protection policemen were ordered to escort five trucks -- two of them containing gifts for the bridal couple and dignitaries -- from OR Tambo Airport to Sun City.

-Sapa

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