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Thabethe tells state capture inquiry he never met the Gupta brothers

Peter Thabethe concluded another session at the state capture commission on Monday.

FILE: A screenshot of former head of Free State agriculture Peter Thabethe testifying at the Zondo commission. Picture: SABCDigitalNews/Youtube

JOHANNESBURG - Former Free State Agriculture head Peter Thabethe said the only time he went to the Gupta residence was to meet the directors of the Vrede dairy company, Paras, and he never met the brothers.

Thabethe concluded another session at the state capture commission on Monday.

He denied that he stopped National Treasury from conducting investigations into the Estina project.

Thabethe said he went to the Gutpa residence in Saxonwold but only to meet with the Paras directors.

“When I arrived at the meeting, I was introduced to people who came from Paras. I was asked to assist with work permits but I told them that Estina would deal with it.”

National Treasury told the commission that Thabethe refused to allow its officials clearance to interview Estina.

But he maintained that he wanted the department to be present.

“Chair, my recollection is you accepted that you said they should not have a meeting with Estina if the department was not represented, that is what I raised with them.”

Thabethe maintained that the Guptas had no role in the Vrede dairy farm and he has no knowledge of Estina money paying for the Gutpa wedding.

WHO ARE THE GUPTA BROTHERS?

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 rocked former President Jacob Zuma's Presidency. They have featured prominently during testimonies at the state capture inquiry.

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).

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, their cousin Pradip 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'.

Earlier this month, the US Treasury department's Foreign Assets Control office prohibited members of the Gupta family and a business associate from doing business with the US or any US nationals.

The US Treasury announced that it has sanctioned Rajesh Gupta, Atul Gupta, Ajay Gupta and Salim Essa for their alleged involvement in corruption in South Africa.

This falls under an executive order issued in the United States.

They have been cited for payments on government contracts, bribery, and other corruption claims to fund political contributions and influence government actions.

The US said Thursday's sanctions demonstrated the country's unwavering commitment to supporting the rule of law and accountability in South Africa.

Additional reporting by EWN & Reuters.

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