An article looking into the controversial Gupta family in US publication New York Times reports that the family have funded a Hindu temple worth hundreds of millions of rands.
Construction of the over R400 million Shivadham Temple, however, has been brought to a halt following an investigation into how the temple was funded, with money laundering allegations tainting the planned place of worship, meant as a dedication to Lord Shiva in honour of the Gupta brothers’ father.
According to the article, South Africa put pressure on India to investigate the temple in the Gupta’s hometown, the Northern Indian city of Saharanpur, after it emerged that a “series of complicated bank transfers” believed by experts to obscure the real source of the money were funding the temple’s construction.
SA pressure reportedly led to a raid of the family’s properties in Saharanpur, with Indian authorities saying they had information that “illicit” funds had been brought into the country by the family.
“How and from where has the money come?” asked local tax official Amrendra Kumar.
The building of the temple has taken place amid much fanfare, with a man described by the publication as “the most powerful guru in India”, Baba Ramdev, among 2,000 people who attended a launch to commemorate the first brick being laid.
Ajay Gupta expressed extreme anger at the allegations over the temple, meant as a dedication not only to the Hindu deity Lord Shiva but to the family’s beloved patriarch Shiv Kumar Gupta, a shopkeeper who encouraged the brothers to seek their fortunes abroad.
“It’s a 1,000 percent lie,” Mr. Gupta said in his first extensive interview since fleeing South Africa. “I’ll kill the person and I’ll kill myself before I use a cent for this kind of a thing.”
The Guptas are widely believed to be behind the alleged capture of the South African state, which is being investigated at the ongoing commission of inquiry into State Capture chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, which began this year.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)