EDINBURGH — The journalists at amaBhungane have picked up where the police and other state investigators have stood back and watched as President Jacob Zuma, his family and friends – in particular – the Gupta family – have raided state coffers for their own gain. In the latest revelations, amaBhungane has published explosive details of how email and other records indicate that the home of polygamous President Jacob Zuma’s fourth wife Bongi Ngema-Zuma has been paid for out of Gupta-linked accounts. AmaBhungane notes that the money used comes from the same accounts in which Transnet kickback money has been deposited – which effectively means that the Jacob Zuma marital mansion in Pretoria appears to have been paid for by bribe money. – Jackie Cameron
But evidence is emerging daily that the financial links between the Gupta and Zuma families run deep.
AmaBhungane journalists piecing together emails leaked from Gupta servers this week have found evidence that the home of polygamous Zuma’s fourth wife, Bongi Ngema-Zuma, was paid off through the Gupta empire. What’s more, bank records appear to link these payments – through a series of transactions – to accounts holding kickbacks received for lucrative contracts awarded by state-owned Transnet.
Another of Zuma’s many children (he is believed to have at least 20), Sinqumo, is caught up in this scandal, too.
This a large house worth at least R5m that President Zuma personally viewed before it was purchased – and one that he allegedly visits frequently – in exclusive Waterkloof Ridge, Pretoria, says amaBhungane.
The Zumas and Guptas have previously denied, through controversial London public relations firm Bell Pottinger, that the Guptas paid the lion’s share of the money needed to buy this Pretoria property.
Duduzane Zuma, who works for the Guptas, has a mansion in Dubai worth R18m, with another Gupta-owned R330m mansion allegedly bought for his father, the Sunday Times revealed earlier this year.
The Gupta family is believed to have generated a staggering R100bn out of a state capture campaign that has relied on cooperation from Zuma’s corrupt friends in state entities and agencies such as the police.
These latest revelations from amaBhungane track transactions from kickbacks linked to contracts awarded by state-owned Transnet to payment of the Zuma Waterkloof Ridge mansion.
In recent weeks, President Zuma appears to have given up trying to conceal his close association with the Gupta family. His cavalcade was spotted in the vicinity of the Gupta family compound shortly after an important ANC meeting, leading to speculation that he was briefing the Gupta family on the details.
The Zuma Waterkloof mansion: Following the Gupta money
AmaBhungane reports: “The #GuptaLeaks show that millions were paid towards an exclusive property purchase – trashing years of denial. The evidence also suggests that some of the money that found its way to the purchase was the proceeds of bribery, laundered from the UAE.”
The money trail “suggests the president’s wife – and by extension Zuma himself – benefited from the proceeds of corruption laundered from Dubai. The presidency, Ngema-Zuma and the Guptas did not reply to questions sent late last week,” says amaBhungane.
Here is a snapshot of new evidence compiled by amaBhungane that “shows it was not only his son Duduzane, but also his fourth wife and their young son – and by extension he – who benefited from Gupta largesse”:
- Bank records, accounting records and budgets show the Guptas and Duduzane Zuma paying as much as R3.4-million of the bond on the property, after making what appears to be an initial down payment of R1.15-million – giving a total of over R4.5-million.
- The Waterkloof Ridge property was bought for R5.24-million in April 2010 and became Ngema-Zuma’s home, says amaBhungane.
- “A person with first-hand knowledge said that the president personally inspected the sprawling property before the purchase. A neighbour said he had been known to visit regularly.”
- Deeds office records of the transfer identified the Sinqumo Trust as the buyer, and Ngema-Zuma as its trustee.
- Named after the president and Ngema-Zuma’s young son, Sinqumo, the trust is more opaque than most, observes amaBhungane. “Public lists on the department of justice website, which usually shows trustees and other basic detail, omit the Sinqumo Trust altogether.”
- In response to earlier amaBhungane attempts to inspect the trust records, the master of the high court in Pretoria, where the records should be kept, maintained they could not be found, say the journalists.
- “In the absence of the records it is not known whether the president is a trustee alongside Ngema-Zuma or has rights to the trust assets. But even if he has no formal connection to the trust, he arguably benefits given that the property is home to his wife and son,” says amaBhungane.
- R3.84-million of the R5.24-million purchase price was bond financed by Bank of Baroda, “the Guptas’ favourite lender”.
- The #GuptaLeaks show that the bond was serviced by the Guptas and Duduzane Zuma generally at a rate of R65,000 a month from the outset.
- They also show that on 18 August 2010, the day after the deeds office effected the transfer to the Sinqumo Trust, R1.15-million was paid into Sinqumo’s current account. This is consistent with it being a down payment; the bulk of the difference between the purchase price and the bond amount.
- “The R1.15-million in turn came from Gupta company Islandsite Investments via Pragat Investments, which at the time was involved in a scandal over the attempted hijacking of iron ore mining rights at Sishen.
- “Although Pragat was nominally owned and controlled by then Gupta executive Jagdish Parekh, #GuptaLeaks records suggest it was financially integrated with the Guptas’ Oakbay group. Parekh did not answer questions before going to press.”
Duduzane and Tony Gupta: Business deals
AmaBhunghane highlights the links between Duduzane Zuma and Tony Gupta:
- Mabengela Investments, a company named after the hills overlooking President Zuma’s Nkandla homestead, is majority owned and controlled by Duduzane Zuma and Rajesh “Tony” Gupta.
- Records show Gupta money moving through Mabengela to pay the Waterkloof Ridge bond.
- So, for example, the same R65,000 amounts that ended up as the first three instalments in September, October and November 2010, can be seen from accounting records to have flowed to Mabengela from Islandsite Investments and Oakbay Investments, both Gupta companies.
- Mabengela income statement and budget records show R1.65-million flowing and budgeted to flow from it to the Sinqumo Trust during the 2012/13 and 2013/14 financial years.
- Transfer instructions submitted to Absa, as well bank records, show that these “investments”, as they were called, were used to pay monthly instalments of R65,000 on the bond during those two years.
- In some months, Mabengela directly transferred R65,000 to Sinqumo Trust’s Bank of Baroda accounts. In others, Mabengela transferred the same amount of R65,000 to “D Zuma”, “DZ – BOB” and “DZ”, in apparent reference to Duduzane Zuma.
Transnet kickback money flows to Sinqumo Zuma trust
Apart from the monthly bond repayments, Mabengela also paid a R535,000 lump sum to Sinqumo on 2 September 2013, says amaBhungane.
“Of this, nearly a third seems to trace back to offshore Gupta accounts stocked with kickbacks from Transnet contracts. It would be a serious indictment if bribes were laundered to a sitting president’s wife,” say the journalists.
AmaBhungane “exposed the alleged Transnet kickbacks in June and July. These included R1.4-billion received from locomotive manufacturer China South Rail (CSR) and at least R55-million from Swiss crane manufacturer Liebherr.
“A contract between CSR and a Gupta-related company made it clear the CSR payments were commissions in return for Transnet locomotive contracts. Similarly, payments from Liebherr flowed contemporaneously with Transnet crane contracts.
“Gupta accounting records then show the funds flowing into and through their offshore network.
“Sitting in the middle was the Guptas’ US relative Ashish Gupta. In 2013, he was just 26 years old with no apparent business profile. Yet, he somehow had over R100-million at his disposal, which he transferred to Oakbay Investment in a handful of tranches between 30 August and 6 September,” reports amaBhungane.
“Purportedly, the money was Ashish Gupta’s “advance” contribution for a mining partnership, but there is scant evidence that his money was used for this.
“The payments landed in Oakbay’s State Bank of India account. Typically, the cash was immediately disbursed across a number of Gupta company accounts using multiple back-to-back transfers.
“Among these, Oakbay paid R150,000 to Mabengela on 2 September 2013. Immediately after receiving the funds, Mabengela transferred R535,000 to Sinqumo’s account at Baroda,” reports amaBhungane.
Ten months later, Ashish Gupta’s R100-million was reimbursed by Accurate Investments. Accurate is a Gupta front company in the United Arab Emirates, which by then had received much of the CSR and Liebherr money.
CSR and Ashish Gupta have not responded to emailed questions. Liebherr has said it is investigating the allegations, reports amaBhungane.
Bongi Ngema-Zuma: Also a Gupta ’employee’
While countless questions about Zuma’s relationship with the Guptas remain, the #GuptaLeaks do, at the very least, shed light on their relationship with Ngema-Zuma, say amaBhungane journalists.
In addition to the bond payments, Ngema-Zuma was also employed by the Guptas’ JIC Mining Services for a while as of 2010.
“Ngema-Zuma’s last official act at JIC (at least as revealed in the #GuptaLeaks) was to co-ordinate the company’s year-end party in 2011. In retrospect, South Africans might consider the theme chosen for the evening particularly apt,” says amaBhungane.
“On 17 November 2011, Ngema-Zuma addressed an email to her colleagues, requesting that they RSVP. Ngema-Zuma further noted: “Dress Code for the event is themed ‘MAFIA’,” the journalists added.