Johannesburg – Atul Gupta has questioned the authenticity of the emails and documents contained in the #GuptaLeaks in an interview with the BBC's Radio 4.
Despite confirmation from a host of individuals implicated or named in the leaked emails that the documents are indeed legitimate, the middle Gupta brother has told the British public broadcaster that the leaks are not authentic.
Gupta's interview with BBC journalist Manveen Rana, the first interview granted by a member of the controversial family since the South African media began reporting on the #GuptaLeaks in May, largely centred around British public relations firm Bell Pottinger's ill-fated work with the Guptas.
"First, let's stop [referring to] Gupta leaks, there is no authenticity of Gupta leaks at all. They are everyday perception mongering to drive their own agenda," Gupta told Rana after she asked him about Bell Pottinger's work with his family's businesses, and the PR firm's simultaneous contact with pro-Gupta political groupings like the ANC Youth League and the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans' Association (MKMVA), as exposed by the #GuptaLeaks.
Gupta did not elaborate on who exactly was behind the so-called "perception mongering" he referred to.
When Rana reminded the businessman that Bell Pottinger staff members themselves had not denied the authenticity of the leaked documents, Gupta stood his ground.
"But no one has showed me... no one has authenticity of these mails," he insisted.
Gupta's denial, however, stands in sharp contrast to the growing group of people, implicated or named in the emails, who have confirmed that their emails to or from the Guptas and their associates were genuine.
Those who have confirmed the authenticity of the leaked emails include Presidency officials Lakela Kaunda, Delsey Sithole and Mogotladi "Mo" Mogano; political commentator Justice Malala, along with several business people whose emails to or from the members of the broader Gupta business empire are contained in the #GuptaLeaks.
'It don't know where this term comes from'
Gupta also insisted that Bell Pottinger's work with his family was completely above board, despite indications that the firm may have sown racial divisions in the country by boosting discussions around issues like "white monopoly capital".
"We have always had some companies who are doing some sort of PR, and Bell Pottinger is one of the PR [companies] in the group. I don't know what is this narrative come from, white monopoly capital. If you go to search any revolutionary speech in this country always exist. It don't know where this term comes from, believe me [all sic]," Gupta told the radio station.
However, Lord Tim Bell, the embattled PR firm's co-founder and former chairperson, made it clear that Bell Pottinger's brief from the Guptas had been politically motivated from the outset.
"We... made a proposal [to the Guptas], and the proposal suggested that we should do various things, including organise people to march, to give demonstrations, to make a fuss about the fact that they'd got the vote in 1994, but they don't have economic power," Bell told the BBC.
The programme was part of a four-part series on Bell Pottinger's work with the Guptas in South Africa.
- Listen to the full first episode here.