Guptas: Taxpayers shortchanged

Johannesburg - Taxpayers have been shortchanged an estimated R70 000 in passenger taxes, following the controversial landing of the Guptas' wedding guests at Air Force Base Waterkloof and not a civilian airport last Tuesday.

Controversial arrival

The Sunday Times reports airport arrival tax of R328, included in the price of an international air ticket, is usually paid over to the Airports Company South Africa. Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Ngakula said no tax was paid in the instance of the 207 passengers who attended the wedding of Vega Gupta and Aakash Jahajgarhia that took place at Sun City last week.

Jet Airways should also have handed over R37 000 in landing fees and in excess of R8 000 in parking fees. Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Phindiwe Gwebu said the airline was fined R80 000 for not having a foreign operator permit and that an inspection of the Airbus A330-200 confirmed it did however have a valid airworthiness certificate and service record.

While the cost of chartering the Airbus A330-200 from Jet Airways is unknown an aviation expert put the cost of the fuel alone for the return trip to be an estimated R2.5 million - the aircraft flew from Indira Gandhi International Airport Delhi to Waterkloof Airforce Base and then to OR Tambo International before heading back to India. According to the report , the total charter cost would have been significantly higher as pilots and crew fees, their accommodation as well as airport fees incurred at OR Tambo needed to be factored in.

Some of the detailed wedding costs include:

- The Palace of the Lost City at a minimum of R6 000 a night, for 200 rooms over three nights cost an estimated R3.6 million
- The five-star Cascades hotel at a minimum of R2 000 a night, for 188 rooms over three nights cost an estimated R1.1 million
- The Royal Suite at the Palace for bride Vega Gupta carries a base rate of R44 457
- The Superior Suite at the Palace for groom AAkash Jahajgarhia cost an estimated R10 344 per night
- Exclusive use of the Valley of the waves carries a hefty price tag of R550 000.

Delayed departure

The Sunday Independent reports, the Gupta family asked for, but were denied, special treatment at OR Tambo International Airport.

They wanted a welcoming team, traditional dancers and exclusive use of the Johannesburg airport for their wedding guests, the Sunday Independent reported.

The Guptas had asked Transport Minister Ben Martins to authorise that part of the airport's international arrivals area be shut down for their guests. They wanted guests' luggage to bypass baggage handling, a special immigrations queue, and for the customs process to be fast-tracked.

Transport department spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso confirmed the request had been made. Martins referred the Guptas to the Airports Company SA (Acsa).

"The minister and Acsa agreed that the Gupta family would not be given any preferential or special treatment should they wish to use the airport for whatever purpose," Rikhotso was quoted as saying.

The Guptas were told to consider using Pilanesberg International Airport in the North West, the paper reported. The family rejected this. The airport is 10 minutes from Sun City - where the wedding was held.

Security breach probe continues

Since the unauthorised landing of the Jet Airways Airbus nine officers were arrested and more arrests could follow, reported the City Press.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe announced on Friday that five high-ranking officials and military staff were suspended and that Government investigations would be concluded within a week.

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