South African Reserve Bank seizes R20m from Gupta company bank account

PTI Johannesburg | Updated on April 02, 2021

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has seized almost R20 million from a local bank account of the now-abandoned Gupta-owned Sahara Computers.

SARB Deputy Governor Kuben Naidoo published a notice in this week’s Government Gazette, declaring the amount and interest accrued at major institution Nedbank to be forfeited to the state.

Sahara Computers was the first major IT company started by the three Gupta brothers, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh, originally from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, after they settled in South Africa at the dawn of democracy under Nelson Mandela in the 1990’s.

The family is now in self-exile in Dubai as South Africa continues extradition efforts to return them for questioning in their alleged role in state capture involving billions of rands from state-owned institutions.

In 2016, as details of irregular dealings emerged, all South African banks refused to deal further with the Gupta family businesses, which had extended to mining and media as well by then.

The Guptas turned to the local branch of the Bank of Baroda, which was also eventually shut down, reportedly because the Indian bank was downscaling its global footprint.

The Guptas are alleged to have been part of the looting of billions of rands through their close association with former president Jacob Zuma, who is himself facing criminal charges.

Sahara Computers was also embroiled in controversy after Zuma’s twin children were given lucrative management and board positions at the company.

The Guptas are alleged to have been so close to Zuma that they announced changes to his cabinet even before he did so himself, witnesses have said at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

In 2017, the massive Sahara Computers offices were left abandoned, with media reports indicating that the company still owed creditors nearly half-a-billion rand.

At the height of its success, Sahara Computers was one of South Africa’s leading IT suppliers, with naming rights at the top three cricket stadiums in the country and leading sport and entertainment personalities as brand ambassadors.

The company also entered into a deal with Subrata Roy’s Sahara India Pariwar in 2004 to manufacture and supply a broad range of IT products through 25 distribution hubs across India.

But the partnership was short-lived despite a launch in Lucknow attended by top Bollywood celebrities, and business and political leaders from both countries.

Published on April 02, 2021

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