Indian hotels knew all about Guptas' pals

17 July 2017 - 07:17 By KYLE COWAN
Ajay Gupta and his younger brother Atul.
Ajay Gupta and his younger brother Atul.

Hotel executives in India knew the Guptas had "open-door access" to the highest levels of government, including President Jacob Zuma, months before the relationship between "No1"and the controversial family became a topic of daily conversation.

Leaked e-mails have revealed how Smriti Hinduja, assistant sales manager of Oberoi hotels in Mumbai, briefed staff from two hotels in early October 2012 on the imminent arrival of guests from Gupta-owned Sahara.

Hinduja laid down several rules for the visit, which spanned several Oberoi hotels from October 15 to 19 2012, including what "VIP Rajesh Tony Gupta" preferred.

"Please note this is a VVIP group and Mr Rajesh Gupta regularly stays at the Presidential Suite of the Taj in New Delhi, hence the request if (sic) he is handled with kid gloves," Hinduja wrote.

Among the many demands to satisfy the guests, which included Zuma's son, Duduzane, and Free State MEC for agriculture at the time Mosebenzi Zwane, was that the mini-bar in Gupta's room was the only one to stay unlocked.

"Sahara Group is based out of South Africa owned by three brothers - Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta. Today the Guptas are known for their billionaire lifestyles and open-door access to the highest levels of government, including President Jacob Zuma."

The e-mail is contained in a string of messages forwarded to Sahara CE Ashu Chawla by Hinduja and this one had an invoice attached.

Although Zuma has defended his relationship with the Gupta family on numerous occasions and denied they held any influence over the appointment of cabinet ministers, this e-mail shows that even in 2012 the Guptas' relationship with the president was well known.

The Sunday Times previouslyreported that Zuma planned to settle in Dubai to live in a luxury R135-million mansion bought by the Gupta family.