Guptas 'spied on bank bosses'
New chapter in family’s campaign against the banks that shunned them is opened as a sinister spreadsheet is found among e-mails
The Gupta family have been spying on some of South Africa's top banking executives, their family members, a former cabinet minister and a rival in a lucrative tender deal.
The family - unmasked as the masterminds behind an intricate network of influence and corruption - were in possession of sensitive information, including detailed travel itineraries of banking bosses, dating from 2015.
Absa CEO Maria Ramos and her husband, former finance minister Trevor Manuel, are among the executives kept under surveillance. Others include Rand Merchant Bank founders GT Ferreira, Paul Harris and Laurie Dippenaar, and Investec CEO Stephen Koseff.Leaked documents reveal that Ashu Chawla, a senior Gupta executive, is in possession of a spreadsheet documenting the identity numbers and international travel dates of these top executives.
A source in the security services, who asked not to be named, said information from ports of entry into South Africa was considered so confidential that even law-enforcement agencies required a court order to access it.
Absa spokesman Songezo Zibi said Ramos had confirmed all the travel dates, plus her identity number, as noted in the spreadsheet.The family - Zuma's friends and Duduzane's business partners - have been at the forefront of an attack on South African banks. They have called for banking reforms since late 2015, when some of South Africa's banks began putting them on notice for possible termination of accounts following various suspicious transactions totalling hundreds of millions of rands.
By April last year, all of South Africa's major banks had terminated the accounts of the family and some close associates, citing suspicions about money laundering.
The family claimed in court papers that this had cost them billions of rands. The family tried to get the government to intervene in the impasse with the banks, which eventually included Bank of China and the Indian state-owned Bank of Baroda.Dippenaar, chairman of FirstRand, said the spreadsheets confirmed his worst fears.
"It's not a surprise to me. I started receiving things on my cellphone [last year] such as calls with no caller ID. I would get maybe four or five of these a week. I asked someone and they said they think I was being listened to.Dimension Data chairman Jeremy Ord - another of the people on the spreadsheet, and whose company was a rival bidder in a lucrative tender - said: "We've been in tender situations against them, the Guptas and Salim Essa, and they're completely unscrupulous, so it doesn't surprise me that they would go to any lengths to get information."
With the family's clampdown on responses to media queries, it could not be established why Chawla, a Sahara executive, had this spreadsheet in his e-mails. The Sunday Times was also unable to verify from whom Chawla received the e-mails or to whom it was dispatched.He added: "It's absolutely remarkable they are not already under serious investigation by state security organs, especially the Hawks.
"What they are tracking them for and how they are tracking them is an important issue. Are they using intelligence or private companies or are they buying it?"
He said the information was sensitive and should not be publicly known because it could be used for intimidation.
Department of Home Affairs spokesman David Hlabane said it was not the only entity where such information could be accessed.
"Before travelling, people buy tickets, which provide full itineraries and details about such travel ... travel agencies would have information about their travel plans, not home affairs. The boarding passes ... are also not issued by the Department of Home Affairs," said Hlabane.