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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 October 2018

South African finance minister quits after admitting links with Gupta family

The Gupta brothers are believed to be living in the UAE after fleeing corruption allegations

Former South African finance minister Nhlanhla Nene. EPA
Former South African finance minister Nhlanhla Nene. EPA

South Africa’s finance minister has quit after admitting links to the corruption-tainted Gupta family, who are believed to be living in the UAE.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said he had accepted the resignation of Nhlanhla Nene “in the interests of good governance” in a televised address on Tuesday.

Mr Nene, who was re-appointed finance minister in February, offered his resignation following days of political pressure after he told an enquiry of a series of meetings he had with the Gupta brothers.

In earlier interviews, Mr Nene had denied meeting the trio privately, saying he had only encountered them at public events.

But last week, Mr Nene admitted to judges leading the Zondo commission, which is looking into the influence of the Guptas, that he met the brothers six times between 2009 and 2014.

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A minister resigning is rare in South African politics, and Mr Nene’s resignation was even more remarkable as there was no evidence of any wrongdoing during his meeting with the Guptas.

But the Gupta brothers – Ajay, Atul and Rajesh – are accused of accumulating enormous political and economic influence in South Africa after moving there in 1993. They are accused of working with former President Jacob Zuma to secure government contracts, siphon off billions of rand in state funds, and determine ministerial appointments.

The extent of the Guptas influence has been described as “state capture” in South Africa.

The Zondo commission has heard from former Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas that in 2015 he was offered $41 million by the Guptas if he accepted the post of finance minister.

In 2015, Mr Zuma had dismissed Mr Nene from his role as finance minister.

In February, Mr Zuma resigned and was replaced by Mr Ramaphosa who has attempted to restore battered confidence in the country’s economic management.

The Guptas fled the country in 2016 after warrants were issued for their arrest. The brothers reportedly fled to Dubai, despite denying wrongdoing, with the South African government pursuing their extradition in talks with UAE officials.

Mr Ramaphosa’s government signed an extradition treaty with the UAE in September, raising expectations that proceedings to extradite the Guptas could see them stand trial in South Africa.