Guptas tipped off on Thuli 'spy' claims
Leaked e-mails show Atul was fed Madonsela CIA claim first
Days before State Security Minister David Mahlobo announced an inquiry into claims that former public protector Thuli Madonsela was a CIA spy, Atul Gupta knew what was coming.
He had been sent an e-mail containing a link to the blog that Mahlobo cited in support of his allegation, leaked e-mails have revealed.
The inquiry has yet to produce any substantiation of Mahlobo's claims.
Madonsela said the revelation that the blog had been sent to Gupta was "shocking".
On February 25 2015 Mahlobo said that a government investigation had found a blog called africainteligenceleaks.wordpress.com on which it was claimed that a CIA ID card with Madonsela's picture on it existed. The blog claimed that various e-mail accounts belonging to Madonsela were proof she was working for the CIA.
The leaked Gupta e-mails show the following:
- On February 12 2015 at 4.37pm a "tip-off" is sent to the Gupta-owned New Age newspaper's news desk, email@example.com, by firstname.lastname@example.org. The e-mail is titled "Is Thulisiwe Nomkhosi Madonsela an agent or a CIA employee?" and contains text from, and a link to, Africa Intelligence Leaks.
- Exactly five minutes later, at 4.42pm, the e-mail is forwarded to Atul Gupta by an employee of The New Age, Haranath Ghosh.
- Atul forwards it two hours later to Rajesh "Tony" Gupta and to Surya Singhala, Ajay Gupta's son, at an e-mail address at Gupta-owned company Sahara.
The Africa Intelligence Leaks blog, which is still active, has been described by former DA MP Lindiwe Mazibuko as being a product of the "lunatic fringe", but Mahlobo and the State Security Agency deemed it necessary to launch an investigation of its claims - to date with no announced findings.
At the time, Madonsela was prepared to go to court to stop the investigation, which she believed would be used a pretext for the State Security Agency to tap phones at the public protector's office or for President Jacob Zuma to suspend her while the investigation was under way.
Madonsela told The Times the claims she was a spy had surfaced before Mahlobo's announcement of the State Security Agency investigation - but the various stories differed in their accounts of how she had been recruited, the identity of her "handler" and the nature of her covert mission.
"This one was a third story, all of them unrelated to each other . they were desperately looking for someone [to push the story] but they didn't employ people intelligent enough to come up with a credible story," Madonsela said.
"But I didn't know that the Guptas were involved."
The e-mail's date, she said, would mean "that either the Guptas gave it to them [the State Security Agency], or the same source did".
"Why on Earth would this anonymous tip-off be sent to Atul Gupta? If it had been sent to the New Age or ANN7 I would say it was random news, but sent to Atul it would seem to support the narrative of state capture. I [don't] know if this was sent to other people but I just find it strange that it was sent to Atul Gupta."
Madonsela said the fact that it took only five minutes for the e-mail to be sent from New Age to Atul Gupta supported the theory that someone had been told to expect the message and to pass it on.
"I am shocked. I always knew the blog had been put out by the State Security Agency or somebody related to them.''
In September last year agency spokesman Brian Dube said its investigation of the Madonsela spy allegations was continuing but nothing has been said since then.
The State Security Agency has said it will respond tomorrow to questions submitted by this newspaper last week.
- The Sunday Times has reported that Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane was "sitting on" the results of investigations relating to the Gupta family. Reports indicate that these investigationss have been finalised, but Mkhwebane has kept silent about their status.