Minister Zwane linked to laundering suspect

Mosebenzi Zwane, Minister of Minerals and Energy Resources at the Chamber of Mines AGM at the country Club Johannesburg Auckland Park. Pic: Freddy Mavunda. © Business Day

The Gupta family and Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane have been linked to a notorious Indian businessman arrested in his home country for money laundering.

Business Day reported on Wednesday that leaked e-mails showed that Kolkata businessman Parasmal Lodha‚ who was arrested for money laundering in Mumbai‚ travelled with Zwane and a number of Gupta family members and associates to Switzerland in December 2015.

Lodha was among seven passengers flying on the Guptas’ private jet to Switzerland and India with Rajesh Gupta and associate Salim Essa.

In parliamentary questions in May 2016 Zwane confirmed he had travelled to Switzerland on an official trip in 2015.

This was after flatly denying allegations that he had gone on a Gupta-related trip to the European country in January 2016 to negotiate the purchase of the Optimum Colliery coal mine from Glencore.

A strong link has been established between the Gupta family and Lodha‚ who attended family weddings.

Oakbay Investments did not respond to requests for comment.

Documents and e-mails between members of the Gupta family and associates were leaked this week. They detail the extent to which the Gupta family has captured politicians and state entities.

Lodha was also linked to Denel’s joint venture.

There were also e-mails from Lodha on November 24 2015 on behalf of Peerless Consultancy Services to Tony Gupta with the subject “DENEL JV” about closing the “long pending matter without any further delay”.

State arms manufacturer Denel chose Gupta-linked VR Laser Asia as a joint venture partner to exploit opportunities in the Asia-Pacific defence market.

When the Treasury did not give the joint venture the go-ahead‚ Denel turned to the courts in a bid to have it approved.

Guptas could lay criminal charges if e-mails were hacked

In one of the e-mails about the Denel joint venture‚ Lodha refers to changes that needed to be made to an agreement as it proposed that “holding company partner Sri Anil Gupta will have the ability to vote directly in the operating company”.

Lodha said this was because the operating company was the joint venture company with Adani‚ one of the potential partners‚ and a direct vote by an individual shareholder was not permitted by law. This was also contrary to the agreement‚ he said.

The agreement proposed 75% voting in any board-level decision‚ but this was not required since irrespective of shareholding patterns they had agreed to an equal representation “hence no decisions can be taken without consent of both parties”‚ Lodha wrote.

The Economic Times reported Lodha had been arrested for alleged illegal conversion of more than 250-million rupees ($3.87m) in old currency into new notes. This was reportedly part of a money-laundering probe in two high-profile black money cases in the wake of demonetisation.

The New Indian Express reported that Lodha had been granted bail on Monday.

The New Indian Express reported that Lodha had been granted bail on Monday.

According to the leaked e-mails‚ Lodha also travelled with members of the Gupta family and President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane from the Oppenheimers’ Fireblade terminal at the OR Tambo airport in May 2015.

The 13 passengers travelling to Mauritius also included Rajesh Gupta and Essa.

In February 2017‚ Business Day reported Fireblade had cut ties with the Gupta family shortly over loading a suitcase containing “suspicious items” onto one of its aircraft.

Sources said the suitcase was suspected of containing diamonds. This has been denied by the Guptas.

In an e-mail from Robbie Irons of Fireblade to acting CEO of Oakbay Investments Ronica Ragavan and Bernhardt de Kock on their departure from the terminal‚ he informs them of a meeting between Fireblade and Zuma regarding a customs and immigration matter.

By Genevieve Quintal

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