Guptas to be asked to testify at #EskomInquiry, as Ajay denies controversial meeting

Cape Town - A lawyer representing Ajay Gupta has written a letter to Parliament’s state capture inquiry, saying that Gupta was not in South Africa at the time of an alleged meeting between him, Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises Ben Martins and suspended Eskom head of legal services Suzanne Daniels. 

And a video of Gupta giving a speech at a religious festival in India will show that he was not in SA at the time the meeting is said it have taken place, states the letter. 

The letter, one of two written by lawyers representing the Gupta brother, was read into the inquiry’s record by its chair, Zukiswa Rantho, before proceedings started on Wednesday. 

This is the first time members of the Gupta family have publicly reacted to the committee, which has been investigating the management of public funds at state power utility Eskom for about seven weeks. 

The letter, written by Goitseona Pilane attorneys, purports to provide evidence that Gupta was not at an alleged meeting first described by Daniels. 

In early November Daniels testified before the committee that she had met Ajay Gupta at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg on July 29, 2017.

AS IT HAPPENED #StateCapture: Daniels opens up about Eskom’s ‘Gupta-run’ board

She said she had originally been invited to meet Gupta business associate Salim Essa at African Pride Hotel on that day.

They then walked to a set of nearby apartment blocks.

“We went into one of those apartments. As we walked into the lounge area there were four people, of which I was introduced to Ajay Gupta, Duduzane Zuma, Deputy Minister [of Public Enterprises] Ben Martins and a Chinese lady whose name I could not remember,” she said.

 “The purpose of the discussion was around the process of the [former Eskom CEO Brian] Molefe court proceedings. Mr Gupta wanted to know how far they were,” she said. 

Martins has previously denied that he was at the meeting. 

But lawyers for Gupta say they have proof he was not in SA at the time. 

"I annex a photocopy of the passport of Mr Ajay Gupta, a copy of the relevant immigration stamped page of Mr Ajay Gupta’s passport, a copy of the official record showing that the aircraft ZS-OAK flew from Lanseria to Bhubaneswar, India, on July 22, 2017 and arrived in India on July 23, 2017. The aircraft returned on July 31 2017," the letter stated.

It also stated that a screenshot from a YouTube video in an annex (which Fin24 has not seen) shows that Gupta was attending a “religious festival”.

Fin24 could not immediately find the video. 

The letter states that the evidence meant the claims of Daniels were “clearly false”.  The attorneys say they have been instructed by their client to lodge complaints with police and the Speaker of Parliament. 

‘Wrongly implicated’

A separate letter from a different set of attorneys, also written to the chair of the inquiry, stated that the Gupta family had been “wrongly implicated in false wrongdoing, directly or indirectly, either individually or through family or business associations” in testimony provided before the inquiry. 

“Mr Gupta denies the wrongdoing in which he and his family members have been implicated in the inquiry,” it states. The letter asks for the Guptas to be given an opportunity to give evidence before the testimony. 

Members of the committee already in principle agreed to invite the Guptas to testify, although no formal invitations had been sent out. 

On November 22, just before Minister of Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown gave evidence, MPs called for the Gupta brothers to appear before the committee.

Other committee members at the time made calls for Gupta business partner Salim Essa, Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane Zuma, and Trillian's Eric Wood and Dudu Myeni to appear before the committee.

MPs happy

Committee members appeared pleasantly surprised to have the Guptas offer to testify, saying this was something they would in any case have done. 

But they were dismissive of the tone of the letters, including parts that asked that the committee “provide a detailed list of questions at least two weeks before the hearing”. 

Committee member Dr Zukile Luyenge said the letters got to the “gist of the matter”. 

“He [Ajay Gupta] will definitely come here. We will talk to him,” he said, adding that “we cannot operate on a matter dictated by any individual in the world”. 

“We will do our work according to our plan as guided by the laws.” 

The committee on Wednesday officially adjourned for 2017.  It is set to continue early next year. 

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