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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Gupta brothers denied video testimony request

South Africa's deputy chief justice rules on grounds that they couldn’t be held to account if they lied or failed to produce evidence

Police at the gate to the compound of the Guptas' property in Johannesburg. AFP
Police at the gate to the compound of the Guptas' property in Johannesburg. AFP

Members of the Gupta family, who’ve been implicated in looting billions of rand from the government and state companies in South Africa, were denied permission to give testimony before a judicial panel investigating the alleged graft from outside the country.

The Gupta brothers, who’ve been seen in Dubai and India, have argued that they could be arrested and prosecuted by reckless and incompetent authorities if they agree to return to South Africa. If they were allowed to testify in another country or by video conference they couldn’t be held to account if they lied or failed to produce evidence, said deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, who heads the judicial panel. He also denied their application for their lawyers to be allowed to cross-examine witnesses.

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“This commission sees no reason to give Ajay Gupta and Rajesh Gupta any special treatment and it will not do so,” Mr Zondo said at a hearing in Johannesburg on Thursday. “Once they are within the borders of the country and are prepared to appear physically and personally before the commission, I would have absolutely no difficulty in granting them leave to cross examine.”

The Guptas are friends with Jacob Zuma, who was forced by the ruling party to resign as president in February, and were in business with his son, Duduzane. The nation’s former anti-graft ombudsman alleged in a report that the brothers may have used their political connections to influence cabinet appointments and the awarding of state contracts, and directed that the judicial panel be established to investigate the matter further. Zuma, his son and the Guptas all deny wrongdoing.