Ever wondered how the alleged state capture by the Gupta brothers came to light? It was thanks to two whistle-blowers who leaked information on hard drives they obtained from Gupta-owned company Sahara Computers.
The hard drives contained sensitive information on how the infamous family‚ their associates and certain Cabinet ministers had captured South Africa’s parastatals.
This revelation came courtesy of lawyer Brian Currin, who gave testimony on Thursday before the commission of inquiry into alleged state capture.
Currin’s testimony focused on the contents of three hard drives, the contents of which became known as the “Gupta Leaks”, and which were crucial to lifting the lid on how the Guptas – with the help of former president Jacob Zuma‚ his son Duduzane Zuma and senior Cabinet ministers – captured the state.
Currin, a lawyer who was also instrumental in the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, could not stress enough how the country owed these two men a “huge debt” because, “had it not been for their bravery‚ the rot and scale of state capture would never have been exposed.
“They are fearful of their personal safety. That is the reason they are not willing to testify at this stage‚” said Currin.
Fearing for their safety‚ the two left the country before the information could be shared publicly. The two men – whose identity remained undisclosed – were in hiding and had started new lives outside South Africa, the Zondo commission was informed.
Currin‚ who dealt with issues surrounding whistle-blowers in the apartheid era‚ recalled how he had received a call from a friend who asked him to assist one of the whistle-blowers, who had informed him that he was in possession of sensitive information.
“I agreed to meet with my friend and the whistle-blower who had the hard drive. A meeting was scheduled for some time in February 2017,” said Currin.
According to Currin the whistle-blower explained to him that he was in possession of more than 300 000 emails and could not read all of them. But from the ones he had read he had become aware that the emails contained sensitive and incriminating information.
“The emails contained details of communication between senior government officials and the Guptas,” said Currin.
During the meetings it became clear that the whistle-blowers did not want the information to go to the police or any political leaders because they did not trust anybody.
Currin testified that despite the volatile political environment‚ there were still people he trusted in political leadership.
“Due to fear, the hard drives had to be placed with a trusted friends‚ and copies of the information were made on to compact discs,” said Currin.
During numerous meetings with the whistle-blowers, they expressed fear and a desire to leave the country with their families before the Gupta Leaks were to be made public, explained Currin.
“Money was raised for the whistle-blowers to enable them to start a new life outside South Africa. In their minds they envisaged that they would never return to South Africa. They needed sufficient funds to build a life outside the country‚” explained Currin.
Currin did not give clarity on how and from whom the money was raised to assist the whistle-blowers to start a new life outside South Africa; he merely explained that they ultimately left South Africa in mid-2017.
The original hard drives, according to Currin’s testimony, were at that stage still in the possession of the whistle-blowers.
The commission of inquiry into state capture heard an application for this electronic data to be submitted as evidence on Thursday.
The electronic data, physically located on a hard drive, consisted of tens of thousands of Gupta-linked emails that detailed the extent of the family’s role in state capture. The commission was now in possession of the original hard drives as well as copies.
Currin said he hoped to persuade the whistle-blowers to hand over the original hard drives to the authorities because the political climate had changed.
Currin also made another shock revelation – he revealed that US authorities had also requested access to the GuptaLeaks email evidence – and had already made a copy of a clone of an original hard drive containing those emails.
“American authorities” contacted him about the “Gupta Leaks” evidence earlier this year‚ while he was meeting one of the whistle-blowers.
Currin did not specify what agency he meant by “American authorities”.