Where are the Gupta brothers?

For the last couple of years, the powerful Gupta family has been at the centre of scandals that rocked Jacob Zuma's presidency.

Atul Gupta. Picture: AFP

MEERUT - On Tuesday, as the ruling African National Congress in South Africa ordered the ouster of the country's President Jacob Zuma, the politically connected Gupta brothers were attending a Maha Shivratri procession in Saharanpur.

For the last couple of years, the powerful Gupta family - mainly brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh - has been at the centre of raging scandals that have rocked Zuma's presidency.

The family has its roots in Saharanpur's Rani Bazaar where its members are still known as "depot wale" (the father, Shiv Kumar, used to run a small ration depot in the market). Two of the three Gupta brothers attended the Shivratri procession, their cousin Pradip Agarwal told TOI on Wednesday.

"The two elder brothers of the family, Ajay and Atul, were here on Tuesday, but left on the same day. I am not aware of their whereabouts now. They had built a temple in the memory of their father and they come here regularly. They visited about a fortnight previous to this visit too, " Agarwal added.

Interestingly, nobody in Rani Bazaar was aware of that fact that on Wednesday the Johannesburg mansion of the Gupta family was being raided on the orders of the South African government.

"What raid? We are not aware of any raid. When did it happen? They (the brothers) behaved as normally as ever during this visit, " added Agarwal. The Guptas have been repeatedly accused of securing deals with South Africa's giant state-owned companies on allegedly favourable terms.

In Saharanpur's Rani Bazaar is a dilapidated old house where the brothers grew up with Agarwal. While the brothers left for Delhi around 1985 to set up their business, Agarwal still lives in the same old house. The Guptas are held in high regard in the area.

In 1993, the brothers moved to Johannesburg. During the country's transition from the apartheid regime, they set up and expanded a huge business empire involved in computers, mining, media and engineering projects. Their ties with Zuma and his family have come under criticism, and the resulting scandal has been called 'Guptagate'.

According to reports, one of Zuma's wives, Bongi Ngema-Zuma, his son Duduzane and daughter Duduzile Zuma even worked for the Guptas.