We've got news for you.

Register on TimesLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now


How Gupta family got nod for Waterkloof

Wedding flight looks to have breached security and the law

09 July 2017 - 00:05 By GRAEME HOSKEN

The Guptas were given sensitive military information and maps with the full co-operation of government figures, allowing them to land at Waterkloof air-force base in 2013 ahead of a family wedding at Sun City.
The dissemination of maps and aviation charts of the base over insecure e-mail systems, including Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail, potentially threatened national security and resulted in suspected breaches of the Defence Act, South African Revenue Service Act and Customs and Excise Act.
If proven, the punishment for such breaches can include 25 years behind bars for all involved, including Tony Gupta, who was allegedly directly involved in ensuring guests had access to the Pretoria base.An e-mail - one of thousands in the leaked Gupta trove - shows how a captain from the airline that flew guests from India asks Tony Gupta to speak to South African Air Force personnel to get the documents.
Captain N Malkani wrote: "I request you to help facilitation of the charter using your good offices with Lieutenant-Colonel [Christine] Anderson to provide us with navigational aid during the period of operation of charter."
It is not known why the airline needed air-force assistance when the Civil Aviation Authority has charts of the base - albeit far less detailed - which are publicly available, or why an official request was not made to the air force for the charts and maps.
The leaked e-mails show the Guptas went into action after Jet Airways told them written permission would be needed from the air force and the CAA for the charter flight to land at Waterkloof, carrying guests attending the Sun City wedding of Vega Gupta in May 2013. Permission was never granted.
The pressure saw the bride's father, Anil Gupta, write to the Indian high commissioner in February 2013 requesting assistance, as "landing at the airport will not only be highly convenient but will also ensure the comfort and safety of our high-profile guests".Ashu Chawla, CEO of the Guptas' Sahara group, told the airline's management, who were threatening to land the plane at OR Tambo International Airport instead: "Definitely we are landing at Waterkloof."
The military charts were sent by now retired Lieutenant-Colonel Anderson from a Waterkloof e-mail address to then head of state protocol Bruce Koloane, now ambassador to the Netherlands. According to the e-mails, Koloane was instrumental in sending the plans and aviation charts to Chawla. He initially used his government address before switching to his Yahoo address.
The military charts, carrying official air force markings, contain information on the radio and navigation frequencies base personnel use as well as the co-ordinates of buildings and specific points on the base.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who heads the government crime prevention and security cluster which investigated the landing, told the Sunday Times that any new information about the involvement of government and Waterkloof officials "may have to be investigated further".
The scores of requests for documents, maps and charts, e-mailed between January and April 2013, were described as "highly unusual" by defence analyst Helmoed Heitman. "The devil is in the detail on what was on those maps and charts that were sent."SARS, the CAA and defence force are the only bodies that can grant permission for a civilian aircraft to land at a military base in the absence of an emergency, and the failure to seek SARS and CAA approval has raised suspicion about what the aircraft's crew or passengers - or the Guptas - wanted to hide from customs at international airports.
"The only reason you evade customs is if you are trying to smuggle something into the country such as forex," said Oupa Magashula, SARS commissioner at the time.
He did not know about the landing until after it happened, he said. "No one approached me with a request for the landing. Even if they had, I would never have given permission." Once SARS learnt of the landing, a specialised team was immediately sent to Sun City, "but all we discovered by then was a couple of strange wedding presents".
CAA spokesman Kabelo Ledwaba said it had not received an application to land at the base or granted permission. "Accessing aviation charts for all South African aerodromes is easy as they are publicly available."
The findings of the internal government inquiry into the landing have now been called into question. Confidential documents seen by the Sunday Times show that Tony Gupta was asked to provide an affidavit about events leading up to the landing and was asked only four questions about the events.
They were whether he or his family had: liaised with government officials or departments over the wedding; knew about blue lights fitted to vehicles escorting the guests' convoy to Sun City; dealt with the Indian high commissioner to facilitate the landing; and had planned to pay for the services rendered...

This article is reserved for Sunday Times subscribers.

A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times content.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Registered on the BusinessLIVE, Business Day or Financial Mail websites? Sign in with the same details.

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.