The fixer to the Guptas: Gigaba's advisor was ‘man on the inside’

31 May 2017 - 09:30 By QAANITAH HUNTER and KYLE COWAN
The Gupta family has been caught up in a new controversy.
The Gupta family has been caught up in a new controversy.

Denel board member and former adviser to Minister Malusi Gigaba, Thamsanqa Msomi, has emerged as the fixer for Gupta family associates in the Department of Home Affairs, documents show.

A leaked e-mail trail revealed how the Guptas' "man on the inside", Msomi, received e-mails from Gupta family associates asking for assistance with visas for "clients", confirming long-standing speculation about his alleged links to the family.

Msomi was Gigaba's chief of staff when he was public enterprises minister, later becoming his legal adviser when Gigaba was home affairs minister. He was appointed to the board of Denel in 2015.

Msomi does not deny the picture painted in the e-mails but said his actions were not out of the ordinary.

The Times has further established in interviews yesterday that when Msomi was in Home Affairs he instructed junior officials in the department to assist Gupta-owned Sahara CEO Ashu Chawla to do the Guptas' bidding.

The leaked e-mail trail showed how a director in the department [Home Affairs] was made to liaise with embassy officials on Chawla's behalf and keep him informed of private happenings in the department. A junior official, whose identity is known, said the assistance he provided Gupta associates was on instruction that "came from the top". He alleged he helped the Gupta family and associates at the behest of Msomi.

The e-mails paint a picture of how the rules of the department were repeatedly flouted for the Gupta family and their business interests and, when an official in the Mumbai consulate tried to implement the rules, there was an attempt to have him replaced.

This move caused controversy in the department's human resources office but was said to have been "approved by the minister".

Gigaba's spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete denied yesterday that the minister had anything to do with it but did not respond in detail at the time of publication as promised.

Msomi said his contact with Chawla was not out of the ordinary and he dealt only with matters that were of an urgent nature.

"I don't know what is meant by regular," Msomi said in response to questions asking how often he had been in contact with Chawla.

"But, yes, if he [Chawla] had issues that were Home Affairs related he would call at times or e-mail. In respect of others he would communicate with the department directly," Msomi said, adding that he received requests for assistance from other people all the time, even now that he had left Home Affairs.

But e-mails show he was forwarded an e-mail, originally sent to Tony Gupta from a Durban attorney, asking for assistance with a client's visa.

The same e-mail was forwarded to Msomi by Chawla, on the same day, January 16 2016.

Msomi responded less than 10 minutes later, confirming receipt.

"Evening my brother. Your e-mail was received please ask the attorney to provide more details on the matter," he wrote.

He said once an issue had been referred to the ministry, the "attitude is that it should be resolved because it is the last resort for our clients".

"So, yes, the [my] willingness to assist originated from this attitude not because of familiarity. Actually familiarity is not a prerequisite," Msomi said yesterday.

"I won't really remember the number of occasions or times he called asking for help because people would at times call more than 20 times about the same matter. I was not communicating or exchanging e-mails with him because of his association with the Gupta family but because he was requesting to be assisted with Home Affairs services.

"As explained, I wouldn't know what is meant by regular contact. What is regular to you may not necessarily be regular to me," Msomi said.