Guptas get military vehicle to escape protesters

The Gupta family believes the police can no longer protect them from furious protesters and are now keeping an armoured military vehicle on their property in case they need a quick escape.

City Press’ sister newspaper, Rapport, published pictures of the vehicle manufactured by a Boksburg company in which the family owns a stake.

Yesterday, the family abandoned an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court in which they wanted the court to ban any further protests outside their Saxonwold estate.

Advocate Francois Botes SC, for the family, told the court that up to 800 people had gathered outside the Guptas’ home on Friday and that police had to fire stun grenades to control the crowd. Botes said the complex is occupied by 21 family members, including a 15-day-old baby.

He said that apart from Friday’s violence, an invitation was also circulated that invited protesters to the “Saxonwold shebeen”.

The family argues their right to privacy has been infringed because most of the extended family do not have anything to do with “so-called state capture”.

They also believe police can no longer guarantee their safety.

The family wants an area within a 1km radius around their complex declared prohibited terrain for any unauthorised protest. However, Botes withdrew the case after he conceded to Judge Bill Prinsloo that the case was not urgent and that the situation outside the house was quiet yesterday afternoon.

The family’s attorney, Gert van der Merwe, confirmed to Rapport that the armoured vehicle that was photographed in the Guptas’ luxury compound belonged to them and was being used for “safety purposes”. He said Friday’s protests proved there was a possible security threat to his clients.

When Rapport pointed out it was illegal to privately own a military vehicle, Van der Merwe said he couldn’t comment because he first needed to consult his clients.

The vehicle is a prototype of the Griffin armoured vehicle built in Boksburg by Scipio Technologies, a company registered with the national conventional arms control committee. This means the company can manufacture armoured vehicles for military use, but they may not be sold for private use.

The vehicle resembles the one Scipio Technologies recently marketed at an arms fair in Abu Dhabi. The company was represented by one of the Gupta brothers and Pieter van der Merwe, chief executive officer of another Gupta company, VR Laser.

VR Laser is also part of a multimillion rand contract to build the army new fighting vehicles.

Scipio is registered solely in the name of Sashank Singhala. Singhala this week denied that Scipio had any connection to the Guptas.

But on the company register, its address is given as the Guptas’ residential address. Singhala is the son of Rajesh Gupta.

Pieter van der Merwe, who happens to be the younger brother of the Guptas’ attorney, did not want to confirm or deny if the vehicle on the Gupta property was built by Scipio.

Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, who is the chairperson of the arms control committee, confirmed the matter would be reported to the police. Radebe confirmed nobody may own a vehicle intended for military use, unless it had been demilitarised.

– Additional reporting by Elaine Swanepoel

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