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South African Govt, Opposition Welcome US Sanctions on Controversial Gupta family

The sanctions, announced by the US treasury department on Thursday, were targeted at brothers Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta, and South African businessman Salim Essa.

PTI

Updated:October 11, 2019, 8:01 PM IST
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South African Govt, Opposition Welcome US Sanctions on Controversial Gupta family
File photo of Ajay Gupta and Atul Gupta. (Getty Images)

Johannesburg: The South African government has welcomed the US imposing sanctions on the controversial Indian-origin Gupta family for running a "significant corruption network" in the country, saying the interest of justice must not be shackled by any boundary or border.

The sanctions, announced by the US treasury department on Thursday, were targeted at brothers Atul, Ajay and Rajesh Gupta, and South African businessman Salim Essa. They are accused of using their friendship with South Africa's former president Jacob Zuma to profit financially and influence ministerial appointments.

"The Gupta family leveraged its political connections to engage in widespread corruption and bribery, capture government contracts, and misappropriate state assets.

Treasury's designation targets the Guptas' pay-to-play political patronage, which was orchestrated at the expense of the South African people, Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a statement.

The sanctions prohibit US persons from engaging in transactions with the four men, or entities owned or controlled by them.

Welcoming the US decision, South Africa's Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, said the action would ensure that the country's interests of justice unfold without any hindrance.

Sanctions have a direct impact on the financial and private interests of affected individuals. Furthermore, these sanctions will ensure that companies or individuals are prohibited from conducting any business in the USA or with any American company worldwide, the ministry said in a statement.

"It is of critical importance that our young democracy confronts corruption and its antecedent effects expeditiously," Lamola said while welcoming the collaborative efforts by the US government in South Africa's fight against corruption.

"The interest of justice must not be shackled by any boundary or border and justice must be seen to be done without fear or favour," said Lamola.

The country's main Opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA) also welcomed the strong action taken by the US to impose sanctions on the Gupta family and their associates for their alleged involvement in "State Capture" in South Africa.

"The DA views the US sanctions against the Gupta family's carefully orchestrated network of corruption as a positive step that could open-the-flood-gates for several others to be held accountable for the crimes they committed at the expense of the South African people," the party said in a statement.

"It is however unfortunate that President Cyril Ramaphosa's African National Congress government has not acted against a single individual that has been implicated in State Capture. Instead, the Ramaphosa-administration has awarded those involved in the looting of our state coffers," the party said.

The government is missing a huge opportunity to send a clear message to the public and the world that rogue elements have no place in our country, it said, adding that the action by the US Government shows what can be done when the political will exists to steer South Africa in the right direction.

The wealthy Gupta brothers, who left South Africa in 2017, are a family of businessmen from Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh. They relocated to South Africa in 1993, just as white minority rule was ending and the country was opening up to the rest of the world.

Their company is reported to have an annual turnover of about USD 22 million as of early 2018. They have interests in mining, air travel, energy, technology and media.

Zuma, who was forced to resign as president in February 2018, has faced allegations he oversaw a web of corruption while in office.

He was replaced by his then-deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, who promised to tackle corruption in South Africa.

Interestingly, a South African court on Friday ruled that Zuma will face a corruption trial after dismissing his application for a permanent stay of prosecution.

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