Picture: REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE
Picture: REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE

DA finance spokesman David Maynier is to lay criminal charges against the Guptas and their associates for laundering public funds through Dubai.

The charges are to be laid against Atul Gupta, Ajay Gupta, Rajesh Gupta, Ronica Ragavan and Kamal Vasram, in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act and the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.

This follows revelations that public funds were used to pay for Vega Gupta and Aakash Jahajgarhia’s wedding at Sun City in 2013. The bill was paid by the Free State provincial government via a dairy farm outside Vrede.

"Today it was revealed [by the Daily Maverick] that a total of $8,099,950 was transferred from "Estina", a 4,400ha farm outside Vrede funded by the Free State government, and then washed through a complex web of Gupta front companies, before being used, inter alia, to settle a $3,333,400 account for Vega Gupta and Aakash Jahajgarhia’s wedding, at Sun City in 2013," Maynier said.

The sole director of Estina was Kamal Vasram, a Gupta associate. According to the Daily Maverick report, the Guptas diverted much of the Free State provincial government’s funding for the dairy farm — about R114m — for their own purposes

"By the time Estina was kicked off the project in 2014 following a National Treasury probe and amaBhungane’s exposure of dead cows being dumped in a ditch, the provincial government had paid Estina about R210m in taxpayers’ money," the report said.

Maynier said he hoped the matter would be properly investigated "because the fact is that it is grotesque that President Jacob Zuma’s most important clients, the Guptas, used public funds, meant to assist the poor, to pay for Vega Gupta and Aakash Jahajgarhia’s wedding at Sun City in 2013."

Meanwhile, global consultancy KPMG failed to raise the issue when businesses controlled by the Gupta family diverted R30m of public money to pay for the wedding and their auditing firm, documents show.

According to Bloomberg, KPMG was also aware that the family’s companies were categorising the wedding costs as business expenses, meaning they would not have to pay tax on them, according to e-mailed communication.

Bloomberg said it could not independently verify the information.

KPMG’s clean audit of Gupta family companies is at odds with its description of itself on its website as a market leader in money-laundering prevention.

Moses Kgosana, who was CEO of KPMG SA at the time, said by phone on Friday that the auditor did not know about the payments. It would have been obliged to raise them with the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors, had it known, he said.

Relationship ended

KPMG ended its 15-year relationship with the Gupta family two years ago, after the public protector initiated an investigation into their dealings.

KPMG told amaBhungane it was "satisfied that at no stage was independence impaired".

Due to confidentiality constraints, "we cannot respond to your questions and request that you direct the same to our former client", KPMG told Bloomberg.

KPMG spokesperson Nqubeko Sibiya said he may respond to e-mailed questions but had no immediate comment.

Zuma’s spokesman, Bongani Ngqulunga, did not respond to calls to his cellphone.

Gupta family spokesman Gary Naidoo did not respond to a voicemail message.

All this money laundering that has surfaced did not go through the books that KPMG audited

The money for the country’s most high-profile wedding of recent years went from the Free State government, via an agricultural project, to bank accounts in the United Arab Emirates and back to Gupta business accounts in SA, amaBhungane said.

The wedding was held at Sun City near Rustenburg over four days in April and May 2013.

On July 31, the family-controlled Linkway Trading sent another Gupta-controlled company, called Accurate Investments, in the UAE an invoice for R30m, itemising everything from chocolate truffles to fireworks, according to a copy of the invoice.

Account transfers

Over the next six weeks, a series of transfers from one Gupta-controlled company to the next took place. The Guptas’ Estina farming project in the Free State, which had obtained the funds from the provincial government, transferred $5m to UAE bank accounts held by two separate Gupta-controlled companies. Both of them transferred about $3.4m to Accurate, which in turn paid Linkway.

The transactions are based on a spreadsheet of payments posted by amaBhungane.

Calls to the Free State agricultural department’s media office did not connect.

A KPMG audit of Linkway posted by amaBhungane and e-mails between KPMG and Linkway executives show that the auditors were aware of the payments and did not raise any concerns.

The leaked e-mails also show that Kgosana — who left in 2015 — was one of the wedding guests.

"All this money laundering that has surfaced did not go through the books that KPMG audited," said Kgosana, who takes over as chairman of financial services firm Alexander Forbes on August. 31. "There was no way that KPMG could’ve seen the transactions. Hindsight is a wonderful thing."

With Bloomberg

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