Gupta firms seek insolvency in South Africa

ANGER: Protesters hold placards outside
the Bloemfontein Regional Court
ANGER: Protesters hold placards outside the Bloemfontein Regional Court

AT LEAST eight companies owned by the wealthy Gupta family accused of corrupt ties to former South Africa president Jacob Zuma, have filed for protection from credi­tors, documents showed last Friday (23).  

The Indian-born billionaire business associates of Zuma, were accused of us­ing their political connections to win state contracts and influence cabinet ap­pointments, in a report by an anti-graft watchdog in 2016. Zuma and the Gupta brothers deny any wrongdoing.  

The Companies and Intellectual Prop­erty Commission (CIPC), South Africa’s companies registry office, shows on its website that eight firms owned by the Gupta’s sought protection from creditors on February 20, including Optimum Coal mine, which has faced a strike by its workers last week over unpaid salaries.  

Another mining operation, Koornfon­tein Mine, is also listed, along with Opti­mum Coal Terminal and Tegeta Explora­tion and Resources in the coal sector.  

“It was inevitable that the empire would implode,” Ben Theron, chief oper­ating officer of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse whistleblower group said.  

The other firms are Shiva Uranium, VR Laser, Islandsite Investments One Hun­dred and Eighty, Confident Cocepts.  

Last week, South Africa’s elite police unit, the Hawks, raided Gupta properties as part of investigations into their alleged corrupt dealings. Ajay Gupta was de­clared “a fugitive from justice” by South Africa’s chief prosecutor last week after he failed to report to police investigating corruption allegations.  

South Africa’s National Union of Mine­workers (NUM) said its members had not been paid on time at the Gupta’s Optimum coal mine and would not return to work. It also said 500 workers would strike on Mon­day (26) at Koornfontein Mine over pay.  

NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mammb­uru said the union’s members were con­cerned the non-payment of salaries was linked to India’s Bank of Baroda cutting ties with the Gupta family’s operations.  

Baroda was the last bank to service Gupta companies. South Africa’s main commercial banks have all cut ties with the Guptas, citing reputational risk.  

“The guys were not paid and they want a meeting with the CEO because they are concerned about the business rescue proceedings which they were not informed about,” Mammburu said, refer­ring to workers at Optimum Coal.