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JOHANNESBURG — The wheel has really turned in South Africa with Ajay Gupta being officially described by the Hawks this week as a fugitive on the run. It’s a situation that would have been unthinkable just several months ago. But amid the winds of change and the hunt for Ajay and his brother Atul, rumours are swirling about their whereabouts. Reports emerged today that Ajay boarded an Emirates flight to Dubai ten days ago. Meanwhile, another report has claimed that a pilot refused to take off from Lanseria Airport earlier this week when Atul Gupta boarded his small jet. It’s the stuff of action movies and Paul O’Sullivan gives us more information on what could happen next. – Gareth van Zyl
Below is an email that Paul O’Sullivan has sent to the South African Police Service regarding a reward for Ajay Gupta:
Dear Major General Mokotedi,
Forensics for Justice have become aware of the fact that Ajay Gupta is now a fugitive from justice.
On behalf of Forensics for Justice, we are offering a R100,000 REWARD, for any person that gives information that leads to the arrest of Ajay Gupta within the next 48 hours.
We believe it to be in the interests of Justice, that he be brought into the criminal justice system as soon as possible.
If people wish to given an anonymous tip-off, they can do so on our toll-free hotline 0800 118 118
We shall make immediate contact if we receive any information.
Transcript of interview with Paul O’Sullivan:
With me on the line from Johannesburg I have Paul O’Sullivan. Now, Paul, Ajay Gupta is officially a fugitive on the run. You’re in fact issuing a reward of R100k for anybody who finds him, but do we know where he is?
Well that’s the purpose of the reward, to try and locate him. There’s a lot of fake news being put out there. For example, we have Eyewitness News yesterday saying that he left the country on the 6th February. Well that’s contradicted by the fact that we have his pilot announcing that he was about to fly him somewhere and he asked to be flown to Botswana and the pilot refused to take him, and that was yesterday. So, we do believe he’s either still in SA or he’s in neighbouring Botswana.
Paul, there seems to be a lot of conflicting information out there, like you’ve mentioned. There was a report that said that Atul Gupta tried to board a flight but that the pilot refused to take off. So, are both Ajay and Atul then on the run? Are police looking for both of them, because it seems like there’s a lot of confusion emanating from that?
Yes, I think the problem comes from the fact that they both have very similar sounding names, Atul and Ajay, even myself – I occasionally mix them up and I call Atul – Ajay, and Ajay – Atul so, I think we have these challenges. If anybody knows of a real Gupta, one of those Gupta family members that’s in SA, and they know where their reward is there. We’ve got a hotline, which is 0800-118-118 – if you’re going to type this out on the record just make those numbers nice and bold because we want people to phone those numbers.
Now, the good news is, we have received some information already. I’m not going to disclose at this moment, what that information is but we have been pursuing that information. Not only pursuing it but we’ve been supplementing it with our own investigations and immediately passing it onto the Hawks. If we get lucky then Mr Gupta will spend a few more years in SA than perhaps he wanted to.
— Save South Africa (@_SaveSA) February 15, 2018
So, without giving too much away, are you suggesting that they’re still in the country?
Again, as I mentioned earlier, the information we have, and it seems to be quite verifiable information, is that he’s been assisted by a certain person, and we know who that person is, or we know who that person is alleged to be. The plan is to get him out of the country and then to fly elsewhere.
Now, the story about the pilot and the chartered jet upon which one of these Gupta brothers allegedly boarded and didn’t successfully leave, do you know anybody about that pilot specifically, because that sounds like an incredible story?
Yes, we know about him but we’re keeping mum on that. In fact, we’ve been in contact with him so, we’re keeping mum on that because it’s not something we want in the public domain at this stage.
So, is that pilot wanting to keep his identity secret, at this stage?
Well, we don’t want to jeopardise the investigation so, we’re not going to be discussing anything connecting to that pilot, who he is, although I do believe it’s out there, but we’re not going to be publishing it. We don’t want that pilot to become subject to multiple phone calls and so on, and so forth. We want to ring-fence him and we want to ensure that his evidence is untainted because if Mr Gupta is picked-up that pilot would have to give evidence in an application to oppose his bail.
What about Duduzane Zuma – is there a warrant for his arrest? Are police and the Hawks looking for him? Do we know where he is, or do you know anything about his whereabouts?
Well, if there’s not a warrant for his arrest then it’s because he’s been protected by Shaun Abrahams. We’ve known for a long time now that Shaun Abrahams has been protecting Zuma and the Guptas, and even issued unlawful instructions across the NPA that any high-level persons who are facing arrests, he had to first of all, approve the issue of the arrest warrant. Now, that process came about so that he could intercept some of the dockets. I have absolutely no doubt that next week Shaun Abrahams will be suspended, and he will be subsequently, shown the door. If I have my way, he’ll be going to prison.
Is there a risk that the Gupta brothers may never face South African court? Obviously, we had a few people connected to the Guptas, such as Nazeem Howa as well as the CEO of Oakbay currently, Ronica Ragavan, who appeared in a Bloemfontein court yesterday. They appeared in court but is there a risk that the Guptas could escape and never come back, especially as they’ve got homes in the UAE and the UAE doesn’t have an Extradition Treaty with SA?
Yes, there’s not many countries that have an Extradition Treaty with SA, and the reason for that is that the prisons in SA are substandard. It falls below what’s generally accepted to be a basic level of human rights. Now, as a result of that, most countries in the world, and there’s a few that are exceptional, but most countries in the world will not extradite people to SA. So, for that reason, we’re saying that if we don’t catch the Guptas, we’ll never see them again because they will not come back to SA. They will spend our money to stay out of SA. They’ll use our money to pay the best legal teams they can find to prevent themselves from being extradited to SA.
Just as a last question. Obviously, you’ve got this reward running so, if anybody sees a Gupta should they approach them or should they not? What is the general advice here? Could they be dangerous?
I think my wife would probably be more dangerous than the Guptas but it’s the people that might be around the Guptas so, they have a penchant for surrounding themselves with bodyguards. Now, bodyguards are not the most intelligent people in the world. They’re not very bright but they can lift heavy things, and they might be dangerous so, the advice we would have is that you immediately contact the SAP and you’re welcome to call our hotline at 0800-118-118, and we have a direct line of communication with the investigation team, and we will pass the information on because sometimes when you dial 1011 – you can sit for quite a few minutes on the phone and out of frustration you give up. That’s not the case with your toll-free line. If you phone that number you’ll get an immediate response and again, it’s 0800-118-118.
Great, we’ll definitely put that number up on our site as well. Paul, thank you very much for chatting to me today.
All right, thanks a lot Gareth, go well.