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Home Affairs immigration head denies knowledge of Gupta visa ‘corruption’

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The Department of Home Affairs’ deputy director general of immigration services has denied any knowledge of corruption relating to the issuing of the Gupta dynasty’s visas to stay in South Africa, as alleged in the GuptaLeaks emails.

“I did not know anything, except of course what I have read in the leaked emails,” Jackson McKay said about the thousands of pages of emails between various members of the Gupta business empire.

Their companies included Sahara Computers, the now closed ANN7 television channel and The New Age newspaper.

“We will investigate these matters and get to the bottom of it,” said McKay.

He also told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs that he had never accepted a gift from anyone, nor done any favours for or received any from the multitudes of people who call him for urgent help on his phone number, which is listed on the department’s website.

The committee sat for the second phase of its investigation into the naturalisation of members of the Gupta family and the issuing of visas issued to workers who came from India to set up its television station operations.

The committee also wants to know how some of the Guptas were naturalised as South African citizens, and whether Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba may have acted inappropriately in granting this to them.

Committee chairperson Hlomani Chauke asked McKay to look “deep” into himself and swallow his pride to share anything he knew about visas issued to the Guptas and their associates, as well as employees from India.

Chauke said at the meeting, which ran late into the night, that the committee was not a disciplinary inquiry but that it needed to get to the bottom of the claims.

“If we fail, the only option to ask Parliament to refer this report to the Zondo [state capture] commission[ of inquiry], and then [Deputy chief Justice Raymond] Zondo and his investigators will sit on you,” said Chauke.

He indicated earlier that they would go as far back as 1993 and would call apartheid-era home affairs minister Danie Schutte to answer questions.

This was because Atul Gupta was the first of the family to arrive in South Africa – in January 1994 – before the first democratic elections.

McKay replied: “I have no pride to swallow chairperson. I am always truthful. What I am sharing with you here is what I know.”

He said the allegations involving the department, raised in the GuptaLeaks and being raised before the committee, were a symptom of problems in the Department of Home Affairs and that he wished he had the resources to investigate every single visa issued, for compliance.

However, he could shed some light on some questions posed by MPs.

He explained that people who come to South Africa for business, needed to be specific about their visas because a plain business or tourist visa did not allow work for pay.

The visas for ANN7’s India-sourced technical start-up team were issued to them, instead of making the company apply for local expertise, on the grounds that they were already familiar with the company’s operations in India.

They received the visas because a company called Essel Media, which owns Zee TV in India, bought shares in Infinity Media, which is registered in South Africa as a holding company of ANN7 and The New Age.

Because Essel media bought shares in Infinity, their technical workers qualified for intra-company transfer visas, granted on the basis of the affiliation between Essel and Infinity.

The people were then “transferred” from the holding company in India, to the South African company. These visas last for four years and because they brought specific skills there was no need for their positions to be advertised to locals.

He did not have the overall numbers of visas issued for all Gupta company associates and family from India at hand since Atul’s arrival. This would have to be investigated by the department’s officials in India, who would have to do a manual paper search for their applications. This can take up to three months.

However, he could say that Ajay Gupta was given a visa in terms of the old Aliens Control Act which allowed work permits to hire people, invest, and run a business, or be a partner in a business.

Atul Gupta arrived on January 11, 1994 at the now-OR Tambo International Airport on a visitor’s visa for non-remunerative business activities.

Rajesh Kumar Gupta arrived on April 22, 1998 on a visitor’s visa for non-remunerative business activities.

There was a record of Rajesh Kumar Gupta and his family leaving South Africa several times between the expiration of his original work permit on April 21, 1999, and the approval of the conversion to a business permit on August 29, 2000.

He said he could also shed some light on the number of employee visas issued via a “raid” by the department at the company’s premises in Midrand in 2013.

There were 40 foreign national employees – 31 held the intra-company transfer visas and nine had visitors’ visas.

These visas were not processed in South Africa.

In a presentation by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) earlier in the day, it was alleged that there were emails from the GuptaLeaks that purported to show that two officials were transferred to India when the department had no budget, or a need for extra staff there.

During this time an employee of the Guptas’ companies, Ashu Chawla, allegedly managed to expedite several visas through a relationship with some of the department’s employees.

McKay said this would need to be investigated because there should be no direct contact between a visa applicant and the official who processes it to avoid abuse of the process.

The department also uses the services of a company called VFS to facilitate applications and this provides a buffer. This contract ends in December.

Vusi Mkhize, former deputy director general for civic services, said in his written reply that Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba had the authority to grant early naturalisation under exceptional services, in terms of the Citizenship Act.

He said it was common cause that Ajay Gupta and his family approached Gigaba over this, but they were not treated differently.

He said the Gupta family met the “substantive” requirements for naturalisation.

Atul Gupta attained “status” in 2002 and Rajesh Gupta in 2006. They did not have to renounce their Indian citizenship because this requirement only came into effect in 2013 and the law did not apply retrospectively.

Ajay Gupta is not a citizen and did not attend any naturalisation ceremony.

[Source: News24]
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