If there’s one thing the Gupta family loves even more than siphoning money out of South Africa, it’s throwing very expensive weddings. In June 2019, there are two lavish Gupta nuptials on the family calendar. These are, by our count, the fourth and fifth of such ceremonies since the Guptas’ extravagant wedding tastes first caught our national eye at Sun City in 2013.
It’s not easy being a Gupta these days. After suffering the indignity of having the family’s Indian businesses and properties raided by the national taxman in March 2018, the Guptas then faced the further blow of having their donation to gold-plate the roof of a Saharanpur temple rejected — once the temple committee found out that the donors were, to quote the Times of India, “the Gupta brothers, who were behind a corruption scandal and the political turbulence in South Africa”.
To add insult to injury, the family which stole billions from South Africa still has to deal with the ongoing slight of being referred to in Indian media as only the “seventh-richest people from Saharanpur”.
Under such trying circumstances, there’s only one way to impress upon the world that you are still a financial force to be reckoned with: Throw two consecutive weddings in June on the scale of a Louis XIV tik bender.
It is fortunate that the Guptas still have some single offspring to marry off, because these will be the fourth and fifth of such ceremonies since 2013: The year in which “Gupta wedding” entered our national lexicon as a concept.
2013’s Sun City nuptials between Gupta niece Vega Gupta and her sweetheart Aaakash Jahajgarhia was the original big daddy of Gupta weddings. Thinking about it now induces a bitter-sweet nostalgia, because at the time its greatest controversy was the colonisation of a South African National Key Point — the Waterkloof Air Force Base — to act as the Guptas’ personal taxi rank.
In those prelapsarian days, we didn’t yet have the proof — which the #Guptaleaks emails would provide four years later — that the “wedding of the century” was paid for with at least R30-million of laundered Free State government funds that were supposed to support the Estina farm project in Vrede.
We also didn’t know some of the other fun facts around the wedding. That Iqbal Survé tried to lobby the Guptas for a better-quality hotel room for the weekend. That about R105,000 worth of crockery went missing during the wedding, including frying pans and bread baskets. That the Guptas demanded that as many white women as possible cater to the whims of their minister-studded guest list. And that the Guptas wrangled over the final wedding charges for 19 months of back-and-forth emails with Sun City and, as of February 2019, still had not settled the total bill.
Those were more innocent times.
Given the prohibitive cost of stealing bread baskets from Sun City, the Guptas have of late been casting their wedding venue net more widely.
April 2016 saw the family descend on Antalya, Turkey, to watch Ajay Gupta’s son Kamal Singhala pledge his troth in a three-day extravaganza estimated to have cost about R154-million.
In February 2019, the Guptas initiated a new family tradition of doubling up on wedding couples. On that occasion, the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi was the stage for a R100-million jamboree marrying off Tony Gupta’s daughter Shubhangi Singhala and Atul Gupta’s son Srikant Singhala to their respective partners.
This time around, the wedding bells are tolling for Ajay Gupta’s son Suryakant from June 18 to 20 and, directly afterwards, for Atul Gupta’s son Shashank.
Indian media reports that the family originally intended the kids to tie the knot in Italy, before meeting with a government official from the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.
That official reportedly (Times of India again) “discussed with them his plans to develop Uttarakhand as a premier wedding tourism destination”, and it was after this meeting that the Guptas opted to switch location from Italy to the Uttarakhand ski resort of Auli.
On behalf of South African journalists, our Indian counterparts are urged to look into what exactly went down in that meeting. Experience has taught us that when the Guptas meet with government officials, the results are often interesting. (“Premier Ace Magashule discussed with them his plans to develop the Free State as a premier dairy-farming destination”…)
So Auli it will be: With the resort apparently already a flurry of activity. Indian media reports that helicopters are being chartered to ferry guests from Delhi and Mumbai to Auli (another note to journalists of the sub-continent: Check the airports, both civilian and military), among whom will be “a bevvy of industrialists, politicians and Bollywood celebrities”.
A bit more exciting than Iqbal Survé, then.
Flowers are reportedly being flown in from Switzerland, which may serve to assuage one of the amateurish failings of the Sun City event. For that particular do, the Guptas had demanded flowers be planted in the Sun City flowerbeds to spell out the names of the wedding party, only to be informed that the “winter blooms” in question would not be flowering.
A bill of around 200 crore — or 2-billion rupees, or about R400-million — is estimated on this occasion. If accurate, that would make it the most expensive Gupta wedding to date by some margin — suggesting that the Guptas are, well, ballin’.
This news does stick in the craw a tiny bit, considering that the progress made by South African authorities in holding the Guptas to account for their State Capture plundering is at this stage entirely invisible.
In February 2019, the Hawks confirmed that the warrant of arrest for Ajay Gupta over the alleged bribing of former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas was being withdrawn. That followed the November 2018 announcement that charges had been dropped against eight suspects linked to the Guptas’ dairy scam because the NPA did not have a sufficiently strong case.
And that followed the four successive court victories by the Guptas against having their South African assets frozen.
It is true that the work of the Zondo Commission into State Capture is not yet complete — not by a long shot, it seems — and the prevailing national hope is that the commission will birth a sudden frenzy of prosecutions led by the new NPA head Shamila Batohi.
Until that day comes, every new piece of evidence that the Guptas are living their best lives while South Africa crawls out of the quagmire of State Capture should be treated as what it is: Not a titillating Top Billing wedding special, but a monumental, national, screaming “Fuck You”. DM
Want to watch Richard Poplak’s audition for SA’s Got Talent?
Who doesn’t? Alas, it was removed by the host site for prolific swearing*… Now that we’ve got your attention, we thought we’d take the opportunity to talk to you about the small matter of book burning and freedom of speech.
Since its release, Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s book Gangster State, has sparked numerous fascist-like behavior from certain members of the public (and the State). There have been planned book burnings, disrupted launches and Ace Magashule has openly called him a liar. And just to say thanks, a R10m defamation suit has been lodged against the author.
Pieter-Louis Myburgh is our latest Scorpio Investigative journalist recruit and we’re not going to let him and his crucial book be silenced. When the Cape Town launch was postponed, Maverick Insider stepped in and relocated it to a secure location so that Pieter-Louis’ revelations could be heard by the public. If we’ve learnt one thing over the past ten years it is this: when anyone tries to infringe on our constitutional rights, we have to fight back. Every day, our journalists are uncovering more details and evidence of State Capture and its various reincarnations. The rot is deep and the threats, like this recent one to freedom of speech, are real. You can support the cause by becoming an Insider and help free the speech that can make a difference.
*No video of Richard Poplak auditioning for SA’s Got Talent actually exists. Unless it does and we don’t know about it please send it through.
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