Gupta brothers are still South African citizens, says Aaron Motsoaledi

Questions raised over brothers' Vanuatu citizenship

14 April 2023 - 14:28
By Kgaugelo Masweneng
Atul Gupta, right, with older brother Ajay. File photo.
Image: Martin Rhodes Atul Gupta, right, with older brother Ajay. File photo.

The Gupta brothers, Atul and Rajesh, are still using South African passports and are still citizens, says home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

The minister revealed this during a news briefing on Friday.

“The Guptas are using South African passports, I just can't tell when, because when you are a South African passport [holder] away from us, we won't know. Our movement control system doesn’t show if you crossed into China and all that, it doesn’t show.

“They have these passports, they’ve got citizenship of South Africa which was eventually determined through parliament that they got it irregularly. There was an official from home affairs who was punished. By the time parliament arrived at that determination, the official had already left home affairs for another department.

“I personally wrote a letter to that department to tell them this person was party to giving the Guptas early citizenship.”

He said it would be unwise to take back the passports if they have not yet revoked their citizenship. “We can't take back the passport before we take away the citizenship. We have to start there. We are chasing them because we believe they belong to us. So if we take away that citizenship, do we still have any right?” he added.

South Africa's bid to extradite the Guptas from the UAE to stand trial on state capture linked cases has been rejected, the country learnt a week ago. The government discovered the Guptas have become citizens of Vanuatu in the Pacific islands.

This came about despite hesitance from authorities in that country, it has since emerged.

According to the Vanuatu Daily Post, Vanuatu’s financial intelligence unit (FIU) had advised Vanuatu’s citizenship office of negative information on the Guptas on separate occasions in 2018. This office identified adverse information against the brothers and informed the citizenship office accordingly on February 4 and 27 2018.

“On around July 5 2018, a fresh application for the same clients was received, and this office issued the same response to the citizenship office.

“After numerous meetings and correspondences on this matter, on around April 2 2019, this office issued another letter to the citizenship office maintaining its position of adverse information identified against the Gupta brothers,” said the publication.

The FIU was quoted as saying: “This stated clearly that the brothers were subject to criminal investigations in South Africa. The onus was placed on the discretionary authority of the citizenship office and the citizenship screening committee. Thereafter FIU was unaware of the Gupta brothers’ citizenship application nor received a request for a fresh review of their applications. Nonetheless, our formal position remains unchanged.”

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