State capture inquiry: 'I looked Tony Gupta in the eyes and said I don't take money' - ex Denel boss

Denel CEO Riaz Saloojee.
Denel CEO Riaz Saloojee.
Puxley Makgatho

Former Denel group CEO Riaz Saloojee has told the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture that he was shocked when one of the Gupta brothers, Tony (Rajesh) Gupta, allegedly attempted to offer him money. 

The offer was allegedly made after a meeting at the family compound in Saxonwold, Johannesburg.

Saloojee told the commission that he was taken aback by the offer, adding that it was so "blatant". This was after the family and their business associate, Salim Essa, told him that they wanted to do business with Denel.  

During his testimony on Wednesday, Saloojee detailed three meetings he had with the controversial Gupta family at their residence. 

READ: Guptaleaks: How the Guptas screwed Denel

He was called to these meetings by Essa in 2012 – a few months after he joined Denel.  

Saloojee told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, chair of the inquiry into state capture, that Essa informed him that he wanted him to meet some people, and that it would be in the interest of Denel.

He said Essa also told him that he had support from the "highest level".  

Saloojee told Zondo that by 2012, when he arrived at Denel, he was already aware of the Gupta family and Essa, in terms of media reports and the publicity around them.

Coffee shop meeting

Saloojee said he met Essa at a coffee shop and Essa then drove him to the Gupta compound. He said when he arrived at the Gupta family home, he was taken into a room and introduced to Tony Gupta.

"Shortly after that, Tony escorts me into another room... in that room he introduces me... (and) says, 'this is my brother' and he doesn't say who the brother is, he just says 'this is my brother'.

"His brother greets me and says 'Hello Riaz, how are you?' and I said I'm fine and then he turns around, and in the room was also Minister Malusi Gigaba – and then he says to Minister Gigaba, 'Minister Gigaba, this is the new CEO of Denel, this is the new guy'."

Saloojee said the meeting lasted for about seven minutes and there was no discussion of Denel.

He told Zondo that Gigaba told him: "These are friends, and if at some point there is anything you can assist them with (at Denel), that would be good."

He said from what Gigaba told him, he did not sound like he was giving him an instruction to help the family. He added that there was a clear message that they had influence.   

He said Essa invited him to the Gupta residence for a second meeting.

When asked why he did not invite Essa to come to the Denel office, Saloojee said he did not "feel comfortable" with him coming to the office. Instead, Saloojee said he drove himself to the Gupta residence.

Second meeting

During the second meeting at the Gupta home, Duduzane Zuma, son of former president Jacob Zuma, and a person who was introduced to him as the son of former Free State premier Ace Magashule, were present. 

Saloojee said in that meeting, Essa told him that the Guptas "had supported" his appointment as group CEO of Denel.

He was also told that the Guptas had the support of "number one", in reference to the former president.

He said he was informed that the Guptas wanted to do business with Denel, but he told them that they needed to follow the proper processes.

Soon after the meeting, Saloojee said he did not take Essa's calls for a while but eventually agreed to a third meeting with Essa and the Guptas, where Tony took the lead. 

Saloojee told the commission that Tony told him: "You are not cooperating, and this lack of your cooperation is a serious issue."

He said Tony also indicated that he did not want to "elevate" this matter further. "I was extremely surprised when he made this statement," Saloojee said.

He told Zondo that Tony also asked him why he didn't take money.

"He says to me, because everybody takes money. And I looked at him very specifically in his eyes and I said to him, 'I do not take money'. And I walked down the stairs and I left," he told Zondo. 

The hearing continues. 

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