South Africa 13.9.2018 05:43 pm

Gupta ‘foot soldier’ to be urgently summonsed to SA over state info

Home Affairs official Gideon Christians testified at the inquiry into early naturalisation of the Gupta family, 13 September 2018. Picture: ANA screengrab

Home Affairs official Gideon Christians testified at the inquiry into early naturalisation of the Gupta family, 13 September 2018. Picture: ANA screengrab

If Home Affairs official Gideon Christians shared the sensitive information with Gupta associate Ashu Chawla ‘it’s tantamount to treason’.

MPs conducting an inquiry into the early naturalisation of the Gupta brothers and their families are expected to call in law enforcement agencies to help them verify information that secret state information might have been shared with a Gupta associate by a Home Affairs official.

MPs cited from an e-mail, contained in the so-called Gupta leaks, of Home Affairs official Gideon Christians sending sensitive information on high-level SA government officials deployed in several countries, including their addresses, their children’s education allowances and their salaries, to Ashu Chawla – the former chief operating officer of Sahara Computers and Gupta associate who was the main intermediary for the brothers and Home Affairs officials.

Christians, who had been reposted to New Delhi in 2015 after returning to South Africa following his deployment there previously, “accepted” that he could have sent Chawla internal information on Home Affairs regarding objections to him being reposted to India.

He could, however, not recall the spreadsheet of information on other officials posted at missions in 63 countries.

“I don’t remember that. I honestly don’t.”

At this point, Hlomane Chauke, inquiry chairman intervened, saying: “This is tantamount to treason to have such information in private hands.”

Chauke ascertained Christians’ e-mail address and said it corresponded to that in the leaked correspondence.

“This is a matter we would require as parliament maybe to immediately get the necessary law enforcement agency to come in and look into this issue. Whoever is in possession of this information, it is highly sensitive information that not even these MPs have,” said Chauke.

Chauke said the committee would liaise with the Speaker’s office to facilitate a summons to be issued for Chawla, who through his lawyer has told MPs he is in India until November, to appear before the committee.

“Today, we have come to understand that there’s this information that’s high security information that Chawla is in possession of and we issue a summons to get Chawla back into the country as a matter of urgency…”

Christians admitted to MPs he knew Chawla well and maintained a friendly relationship.

“I say that we have a relationship. We’re not friends. Mr Chawla does not come over to my house with my family and friends and have a braai,” he said.

Christians admitted sending his CV to Sahara Computers after he returned to South Africa in 2015, prior to him being reposted to New Delhi, but said it was because he was frustrated with his job at a refugee office in Cape Town, adding he also sent his CV to other companies, including the SA Revenue Service.

He also admitted he was invited to the lavish wedding of the Gupta family’s niece in 2013, but did not attend. Besides the wedding invite, Christians said he was not offered any gifts by the Guptas.

He could not recall receiving an e-mail from Chawla showing him a catalogue of Mini Cooper vehicles to choose from.

“According to the e-mail that was forwarded to me, I have no idea. I never responded to it,” he said.

“I have never ever owned a Mini Cooper. I have never bought a Mini Cooper, no one has ever bought (me) a Mini Cooper, I’m too tall for it anyway.”

MPs are expected to grill former Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni next, after which Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba will be in the hot seat.

African News Agency (ANA)

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