In April 2016, reporter Susan Comrie, now with amaBhungane, flew to Dubai on an assignment to find the mansion the Guptas were alleged to have bought, somewhere in the millionaires’ suburb of Emirates Hills.
It didn’t take long to get the address – when you buy the most expensive property in Dubai’s most expensive suburb, anyone with a South African connection tends to notice.
From the #GuptaLeaks we can now confirm that the Guptas bought L35, a 10-bedroom mansion overlooking the Montgomerie golf course, for AED93-million (R331-million) in July 2015.
Photos of the mansion, published on estate agent Knight Frank’s website, show a white marble and gold interior, some of the 10 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms, nine reception rooms and underground parking for 11 cars.
Despite spending over R300-million on their desert palace, the Guptas appear to have been dissatisfied with the condition they found it in. E-mails in the #GuptaLeaks shows that they brought in an interior designer who proposed R21.7-million renovations.
One of the changes suggested in 3D models was the addition of a massive free-standing safe, surrounded by busts for displaying expensive jewellery, installed inside a walk-in closet.
Discussions around the installation of the safe coincide with the arrival in Dubai of a steady stream of executives from seemingly captured state-owned entities.
These appear to include Eskom’s former acting chief executive, Matshela Koko, Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh, Transnet chief executive Siyabonga Gama and Denel chair Daniel Mantsha, all of whom were put up in suites in the Oberoi Hotel paid for by the Guptas’ Sahara Computers.
Mantsha was one of several high-profile visitors chauffeured to the Guptas’ mansion in Emirates Hills.
L35 also features in the now infamous Dubai “relocation” letter, drafted by the Guptas for President Jacob Zuma. In one of the drafts, Zuma tells one of the Emirati rulers that L35 is his second home: I am happy to inform you that my family has decided to make the UAE, and specifically Dubai, a second home and have already acquired a residence located at Emirates Hills, Dubai (Villa No. L-35, Lailak Street No.1).
The letter was drafted for Zuma in January 2016 and passed on to his son, Duduzane Zuma, who is a shareholder in numerous Gupta companies.
The president denies receiving such a letter, calling it “shocking in the extreme” and saying in a statement: “Duduzane has never spoken to me about living in any other country. He has never shown me any letter.”
However, the #GuptaLeaks show that by the time the letter was drafted, Duduzane had already bought an AED5-million (R17.9-million) apartment in the exclusive Burj Khalifa.
This week, EFF leader Julius Malema tweeted to remind his followers that in April 2016, he had said that the EFF “received unconfirmed reports that Zuma wants to leave the country and seek asylum in Dubai because he doesn’t feel safe in his country”.
Malema’s 2016 warning was tweeted days after a substantial number of Gupta family members left South Africa aboard a hurried late-night flight to Dubai.
For months it was rumoured that the family was in the process of moving large amounts of money to Dubai – a claim they flatly denied at the time.
When the elaborate villa at L35 was discovered, it was clear that the Guptas had not only amassed a fortune, but that a substantial portion lay outside the reach of the South African authorities.
The #GuptaLeaks confirm that the Guptas and their lieutenants constructed elaborate schemes to channel money out of the country, and into financial safe havens like Dubai.
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