Ajay Gupta, one of three Indian-born brothers at the centre of state capture allegations, is not on the run using a South African passport, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Tuesday.
Briefing journalists after “putting the matter to rest” before Parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs regarding the early naturalisation of members of the Gupta family, Gigaba said only Ajay Gupta’s wife, mother and two children were granted citizenship.
“They were asked to renounce the citizenship of the country of origin at which point Mr Ajay Gupta declined to renounce Indian citizenship, therefore he is not a citizen of the Republic of South Africa,” Gigaba said.
Gigaba explained after Ajay Gupta and the four other members of his family were denied naturalisation in 2013, they appealed.
He said the family appealed after which the matter was put before a departmental panel to look at new facts. These included that the family employed thousands of workers in South Africa and was engaged in several philanthropic activities in the republic.
Gigaba again denied any malicious intent.
“If there was any intention on our part to favour this family and grant them citizenship regardless of what the law stipulates, we would not have asked them to renounce Indian citizenship.”
Both Ajay and his brother, Atul, were not citizens but had permanent residency permits.
Gigaba and Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni said there was no way the department could have known prior to granting the Guptas the right to citizenship that they would be involved in any alleged wrongdoing.
Asked whether they would revoke Ajay Gupta’s residency permit, Gigaba said: “Knowing what we know now is still not sufficient enough for us to revoke permanent residency permits of the two gentleman because there has to be due process in the courts. Only once there’s a court ruling, we can take additional steps.”
The Gupta brothers are closely linked to former president Jacob Zuma. They are accused of state capture – the looting of state resources in South Africa, making billions of rands off contracts with government and state-owned enterprises.
Also on Tuesday, Indian tax inspectors raided properties owned by the Gupta family on suspicion they were bringing money into their native country, an official said.
The Times of India quoted Amrendra Kumar, a senior income tax official in India’s Uttar Pradesh state, as saying the Gupta brothers – Ajay, Atul and Rajesh – were suspected of finding ways to bring “illicit money” they had earned abroad into India.
Ajay Gupta is regarded by South African authorities as a fugitive from justice after a warrant of arrest was issued against him.