The Guptas’ passport bonanza

The Gupta brothers have each been provided with a plethora of South African passports that will ensure they can still get around for a long time.

City Press’ sister newspaper Rapport has obtained copies of computer records from the home affairs department which confirm that Atul Gupta currently has three valid South African passports.

His brother, Rajesh, has six to choose from.

These do not include passports that have already expired or been lost.

As a matter of fact, the South African government even sent another valid passport to Dubai three weeks ago where it was to be picked up by Ajay Gupta’s wife Chetali. It is her third valid passport.

This is despite the fact that Ajay has fled the country and that there has been no attempt to track down the family and have him extradited.

National director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams told Parliament this week that prosecutors cannot begin with extradition proceedings in the Estina dairy farm case because that would mean the accused can be charged only in respect of that crime and no others.

Ulrich Roux, an attorney who specialises in criminal law, said Abrahams was only partly correct.

“The government has to specify what they will be prosecuted for when there is an extradition request.

“But nothing prevents the police or the Hawks from arresting them for other cases once they are back in South Africa.”

As South Africans, Atul and Rajesh can now only travel using South African passports and may not necessarily want to return to apply for new ones anytime soon.

This means they have to have enough open pages for their travels between various countries.

On November 3, when there were widespread calls for the Guptas to be prosecuted and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was preparing to freeze their assets, the home affairs department issued two passports to Rajesh on the same day.

Both passports were maxi-passports with 48 pages, instead of the ordinary 32 pages.

In addition, both passports were issued on the same day they applied – something done only under very special circumstances.

Leon Isaacson, an immigration specialist at Global Migration SA who deals with passport applications, said legislation prohibits a South African citizen from having more than one valid passport at a time, unless the minister expressly makes an exception.

The exception applies, for instance, when a businessman has to apply for two different visas at the same time.

But Isaacson said he has never heard of anyone having more than two valid passports at the same time.

Even when a passport is full before it expires and a new one has to be issued, the previous passport will be removed from the population register system, said Isaacson.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has this past week been at pains to emphasise that his department would not give the Guptas special treatment.

Gigaba’s spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete did not respond to requests for comment.

Gigaba has been on the back foot since he told Parliament that Ajay and Atul were not South African citizens.

But a copy of Atul’s South African passport was almost immediately circulated on social media. Gigaba then said he made a mistake; Atul was indeed a South African, but not Ajay because he was not prepared to give up his Indian citizenship.

Gigaba suddenly fell ill when he later had to respond to allegations that he had given the Guptas preferential treatment in his previous term as minister of home affairs.

Ajay and his family previously applied for citizenship in 2014 but were unsuccessful.

The decision was then overturned by Gigaba, who said there were exceptional circumstances that existed at the time.

He said this included the fact that the Guptas were providing thousands of people with jobs and investing in the country.

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