Around the world in 11 days with high-flying Guptas

2017-07-12 06:01
The Guptas are Zuma’s family friends and business partners of his son Duduzane. (GCIS)

The Guptas are Zuma’s family friends and business partners of his son Duduzane. (GCIS)

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Johannesburg – It could be pure coincidence.

The Gupta family’s private jet, a Bombardier Global 6 000 business aircraft registered as ZS-OAK, touched down in London on Wednesday last week.

The next day, their former London-based public relations firm Bell Pottinger issued an "unequivocal" mea culpa for the racially divisive spin they had assisted the Guptas and President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane, with.

It is not known who was aboard ZS-OAK when the plane touched down at London’s Stansted Airport on July 5.

We have no further proof that the Guptas met Bell Pottinger – they could have landed in London to attend the Hampton Court flower show or to wish the Proteas well for their cricket Test match that started the next day.

The London landing forms part of an extended trip by ZS-OAK that began on June 27 at Lanseria Airport, west of Johannesburg, where the private jet is housed, and saw short one-day stops in India, Switzerland, France and the UK.

The plane finally returned to Lanseria on Friday, July 7.

Stansted Airport is 55km – a one hour trip by road – away from Bell Pottinger’s head office in High Holborn in London.

ZS-OAK spent just one day at Stansted before departing on July 6, the same day Bell Pottinger CEO James Henderson issued a full, unequivocal and absolute apology for their work for the Guptas. Henderson announced that they had fired the lead partner on the account, Victoria Geoghegan, and suspended three more employees. 

Whirlwind trip

Bell Pottinger further called in international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills LLP to review the Oakbay Capital account and the work done on it.

Bell Pottinger would not say if they had met the Guptas before the release of their apology, and Gupta spokesperson Gary Naidoo did not respond to our questions.

"Following our statement last Thursday, we will not be saying anything further until the Herbert-Smith Freehills’ review has concluded," the PR company said.

London was the fifth stop on a whirlwind trip to a number of cities around the world.

On June 27, flight radar applications show that the plane made a trip out of Lanseria to New Delhi in India. It is a frequent destination for the family who originally come from Saharanpur in the Uttar Pradesh state. They still have numerous familial and business ties with their home country.

The plane spent two days in India before departing for Dubai on June 29.

The #GuptaLeaks have shown that Dubai has become the Guptas’ second home outside of India. Rajesh, otherwise known as Tony, has permanently moved to the family’s R330m mansion there, and Duduzane Zuma scored a flat in the famous Burj Khalifa building.

The family also has numerous business links to the country. Shelf companies abound – with a name, a post box and, most importantly, a bank account to send money to, making up many of them. 

Also read:  #GuptaLeaks: How to throw a lavish wedding using taxpayers money in 7 easy steps!

And: #GuptaLeaks: The Dubai Laundromat – How KPMG saw no evil at the Sun City wedding

After a few days, ZS-OAK departed from Dubai and headed to Zurich on July 3. The capital of Switzerland is another favourite spot with the family. 

Aside from their now infamous trip with Mineral Resources Minister Mozebenzi Zwane to meet Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg in November and December 2015, the Guptas, their partner Salim Essa, Duduzane Zuma and Ashu Chawla have all made numerous trips to the Swiss city since 2011, the #GuptaLeaks show. 

Short stays

The leaked emails show numerous flight and hotel bookings, mainly at the five-star Dolder Grand and Baur au Lac hotels. All the stays appear to be short. 

In one trip, for instance, in September 2013, a travel quote shows that it was planned that Duduzane Zuma fly from Johannesburg to Dubai, and then a day later, on to London. Four days later, he flew to Zurich, then on to Dubai and Johannesburg. 

Judging from the number of trips to Zurich’s German-speaking shores, it appears the Guptas have developed a taste for this city famous for its music festivals, Swiss watches, cheese and chocolate. 

ZS-OAK stayed just one day before flying out to Le Bourget Airport outside Paris, perhaps in time for a bit of shopping at the Haute Couture Fashion Week?

Their stay in the City of Love was again a short one. Just one day, and it was off to unknown business in London, before they were homeward bound to Lanseria via Dubai.

The Gupta jet (Marco Dotti, Planespotters.net)

Read more on:    bell pottinger  |  jacob zuma  |  gupta family  |  duduzane ­zuma  |  johannesburg  |  gupta emails  |  gupta leaks

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