City Press’ India correspondent Rajnesh Dixit was present at this morning’s raid, which saw the country’s income tax department raiding property belonging to the Gupta brothers in the family’s hometown of Saharanpur on Tuesday.
The Gupta brothers, friends of former president Jacob Zuma, were notoriously accused of “state capture” in South Africa.
This, according to a Public Protector report, State of Capture, included the appointment of numerous Cabinet members, jobs for favours, influence over state-owned enterprises such as Eskom, and influential relationships between banks and Gupta-owed companies – including deliberately channelling government advertising to the Gupta-owned newspaper, the New Age.
In February, special investigating unit the Hawks raided Gupta property in South Africa.
The raids in India were conducted by officials from Uttarakhand state’s capital, Dehradun, the nearby town of Meerut, as well as the country’s capital, Delhi. They also involved officials from the Indian tax authority’s Central Investigation Agency.
The raids, which started at 8.30am Indian time and were still continuing at 5.30pm Indian time, were conducted simultaneously on all property owned by eldest Gupta brother, Ajay.
These include the offices and houses belonging to the Shiv Dham Trust, the trust that oversees the temple the brothers built in their hometown in honour of their late father Shiv Gupta, as well as the temple itself.
Another parental property located in Rani Bazar in the city’s Thana Mandi area was also raided as part of an investigation into the Gupta brothers’ income and expenditure.
The authorities were careful to keep journalists away from the properties during the raids.
All houses belonging to the Guptas in Saharanpur are currently closed. No close families of theirs remain in the city and at the temple’s compound.
According to the Indian Express, the Shivadham temple is “beyond dreams” and is estimated to cost between 200 and 250 crore (about R450 million), and it includes a helipad and a flyover bridge from the main road.
The temple, currently under construction, saw popular yoga guru Swami Ramdev attend the foundation laying ceremony in 2014. Ramdev’s popularity has seen him give live talks of inspiration and guidance which have been broadcast to millions of viewers across the globe.
The Gupta brothers previously appeared in a video along with Ramdev, where the brothers were adorned with garlands and given flowers, where they sat side by side with the guru, while thousands of devotees watched.
Reports suggested that neither of the three brothers, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh were currently in India.
The raids were expected to continue.