Ajay Gupta. Picture: BUSINESS DAY/MARTIN RHODES
Ajay Gupta. Picture: BUSINESS DAY/MARTIN RHODES

Gupta lieutenant Ashu Chawla, who is set to testify in parliament at the inquiry into the naturalisation of the controversial family, did not violate his bail conditions by leaving the country, says the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Parliament’s home affairs portfolio committee had been keen to quiz Chawla about his role in the naturalisation matter.

The inquiry is investigating how members of the Gupta family, which is at the centre of state capture allegations and some of whose members have close ties with former president Jacob Zuma, were granted citizenship even though they did not meet the requirements.

The department had rejected applications for five Gupta family members.

The naturalisations of Ajay Gupta, his wife, mother and two sons were granted after Chawla appealed to home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba on behalf of three of the family members for approval of their naturalisation, on account of "exceptional circumstances".

The committee was taken aback when it heard Chawla had left the country despite being out on bail on charges of fraud and corruption related to the Estina dairy farm scandal.

The NPA’s Phaladi Shuping said on Sunday that Chawla had not violated his bail conditions, which were relaxed after the last court hearing on August 21.

"The agreement was that every time they [the accused in the matter] want to travel abroad, they must notify the investigating officer of when they are leaving the country and when are they going to return to SA," Shuping said.

"The officer will then give them their passports and they must be returned once they are back in SA.

"Chawla made the necessary arrangements with the investigating officer and he was allowed to travel abroad."

In correspondence with the home affairs portfolio committee last week, Chawla’s lawyer said that he was in India and would be there until the end of November.

Committee chairman Patrick Chauke last week said Chawla would be required to appear before the inquiry when the committee sits again in October, and summons would be served if necessary.

The committee resolved on Friday to postpone the testimony to be given by Gigaba.

He was initially scheduled to appear before the inquiry on September 13.

"The committee considers it a prerequisite that it must interrogate the administrative part of the process before it can look at the political decisions made by the executive authority," Chauke said.

"The committee has not been able to complete interrogating this initial phase, hence the need to defer the following stage of the process," said Chauke.

With Linda Ensor