South African billionaire businessman Johann Rupert claims the Gupta family’s UK-based public relations firm, Bell Pottinger, is behind an ongoing campaign to link him to “state capture” activities.
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Business Day reported on Friday that in recent months, Rupert had been targeted on social media by certain fringe political commentators that had been constructing a narrative that the chairperson of R113bn investment giant Remgro, controlled by the Rupert family, had “control” of key segments of the media.
Rupert reportedly told the Remgro at an annual meeting on Thursday, Richemont, the luxury brands business controlled by the Rupert family, had until recently been on contract with Bell Pottinger to work on its financial relationships. The contract had lasted 15 to 18 years, he estimated.
“And whilst they were still in the employment of Richemont, they started working for the Guptas. The very same person … Their total task was to deflect attention [from state capture allegations involving the Guptas]. Guess who they took as a target? A client of theirs … Me!”
The social media campaign is apparently widely believed to be an attempt to deflect attention away from state capture allegations involving the Guptas and their relationship with President Jacob Zuma, according to the paper.
The business tycoon said Bell Pottinger’s contract with Richemont had since been terminated. He denied allegations that his family business influenced media or were trying to capture the state.
“We have never done business with the state … ever. Firstly, I didn’t trust the previous bunch, and I don’t trust these guys. We have zero influence on the media or the [media] companies we are invested in. So it’s getting a little tedious …”
Rupert said during apartheid he had been targeted as a “verraaier”.
“The attacks used to come from the right, now they come from the left. It’s not fun … and it’s steered by Bell Pottinger … I’m saying this publicly now. It is well known in the press about how well this campaign is orchestrated to protect a certain family and a certain individual.”
Bell Pottinger executive Victoria Geoghegan denied the claims made by the business magnate.