Mentor ‘saw’ Atul Gupta in China when he hadn’t even left SA, inquiry hears

Former MP Vytjie Mentor is pictured during the  Commission of Inquiry into State Capture held in Johannesburg, 29 August 2018. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Former MP Vytjie Mentor is pictured during the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture held in Johannesburg, 29 August 2018. Picture: Refilwe Modise

According to flight records, Atul may have been in SA all along, but Mentor has suggested he could move in ways home affairs wasn’t able to track.

Evidence leader at the commission of inquiry into state capture Mahlabe Sello used travel records obtained from the department of home affairs (DHA) to suggest that one of the Gupta brothers, Atul, was actually in the country during the department of trade and industry (dti) trade mission to China in 2010 when former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor testified at the commission last year that she had met all three Gupta brothers – Atul, Rajesh, and Ajay.

Mentor testified at the commission last year that one of the sons of former president Jacob Zuma, Duduzane, introduced her to “two Indian-looking men” on board an Emirates flight en route to Dubai. She said she later learnt one of the men had been Gupta brother Rajesh.

She further testified that, in China, Beijing, the three Gupta brothers were present at the dti trade mission that ran from August 22, 2010, to August 26, 2010.

However, using records from the DHA requested and obtained by the commission, Sello revealed that Atul had been in the country during the period of the dti trade mission to China because the records showed that Atul Gupta exited the country on May 3 2010, returning May 5, 2010, with another recorded travel being him leaving on October 3, 2010, returning October 7 2010.

Sello said the records requested from the DHA were for between the period May 2010 to December 2010.

Mentor questioned whether the records obtained from the DHA showed different passport numbers individuals may have used for travelling outside of the country.

Sello said the records obtained from the DHA were “very extensive” and had shown different passport numbers for some of the individuals the commission requested the DHA provide travel records on.

Mentor maintained that Atul Gupta had more than one passport and that it was on board the Emirates flight that one of the Gupta brothers had informed her that Atul Gupta was part of the “advance team” that had travelled ahead of the dti delegation for China.

She further suggested that – considering the Guptas had landed a plane at the airforce base in Waterkloof without permission from the South African Revenue Service, the Civil Aviation Authority, or the defence force – the controversial family “have the ability to move in and out of the country without clearing customs”.

Mentor added that since she had been told that Atul Gupta had been part of the “advance team” she could not confirm whether he, as part of that team, had “cleared customs” as per normal practice.

The former ANC MP requested that the commission should obtain video footage from Beijing to determine if Atul Gupta had been at the dti trade mission in that country.

Sello further used records the commission obtained from Emirates Airlines for the period July 2010 to December 2010 that revealed that Atul had used the airline on 3, 4, 5 and 7 October that year and they had not carried him in August during the dti trade mission to China.

Mentor said she had never testified that Atul had been the one introduced to her by Duduzane during the flight.

Records from the airline tabled by Sello before the commission also showed that on the return flight from China, Mentor had travelled with Ajay and Rajesh Gupta, and Duduzane.

Mentor had previously testified that on the return trip she had travelled a day earlier than her planned flight back and had flown via Hong Kong to South Africa.

“I might have made a mistake about returning via Hong Kong. I might have confused it with another trip,” Mentor told the commission.

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