The Gupta brothers who are under investigation for their close association with Jacob Zuma, who resigned as South Africa’s President on February 15 plagued by corruption scandals, have been provided ‘Z’ category security by the Uttarakhand government. The brothers Ajay, Rajesh and Atul, who are all in their 40s, had relocated to South Africa from Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur in 1993. However, they own property in Dehradun, including a palatial house in the city’s Curzon Road locality. The brothers were given ‘Y’ category security under the previous Congress regime. Last year, the BJP government upgraded it.
Principal Secretary (Home) Anand Bardhan told The Sunday Express, “The Gupta brothers were being provided ‘Y’ category security for quite a few years. After review and analysis by the state government, the security was upgraded in June-July last year to ‘Z’ category.”
Of the three brothers, Ajay and Atul are currently being provided ‘Z’ category security, Bardhan said, adding that “the Guptas pay for the security”.
Under ‘Z’ category, Ajay and Atul are entitled to four house guards and two personal security officers (PSOs). Dehradun Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Nivedita Kukreti didn’t divulge what it cost them, only saying, “The amount they pay should equal the salaries of the six personnel for the period that they guard the brothers.”
Only few can avail such a security cover, and Bardhan said “among businessmen, Guptas would be the only persons being given ‘Z’ category security” by the Uttarakhand government.
It was rumoured that Ajay, who has an arrest warrant against him in South Africa and is believed to have left the country in February first week, was in Dehradun at the time of Zuma’s resignation. However, SSP Kukreti said, “The Guptas had earlier applied for security between February 16 and 18, but we recently received a letter from them asking us to cancel the request.”
The police officer added that police were unaware of any family members of the Guptas residing at the Dehradun house. “The security does not entail the government giving security to the house in the absence of the Gupta brothers. As per procedure, whenever they need security in Uttarakhand, the brothers write to us asking for it and mentioning the dates for which they need the security,” Kukreti said.
On how the brothers got ‘Z’ category security, Bardhan said, “They wrote to us (the Uttarakhand government) asking for security whenever they are in Uttarakhand. We got the request application examined by a committee (comprising district-level authorities and intelligence agencies). The inputs of the committee were given to the Home Department, which examined them and made its recommendation to the chief minister (Trivendra Rawat).”
It was the CM who finally decided that Ajay and Atul be given ‘Z’ category security, the Principal Secretary said.
About the Guptas being under investigation in South Africa, Bardhan said, “The Guptas have had security in Uttarakhand for quite a few years now. The state government has not received any official information against the Guptas till now. There are media reports against them, but those cannot be taken into account for deciding whether a person can be provided security cover. If we receive information against the brothers (via official sources), we will act on it.”
Ajay, Rajesh and Atul Gupta are accused of using their friendship with Zuma to influence policy and amass wealth, but have denied any wrongdoing. The Gupta properties have also been raided as part of the investigations. In October 2017, the FBI opened investigations into US links to the Guptas. The Gupta scandal has also embroiled the Indian State-owned Bank of Baroda (BoB). Involved in controversial banking transactions with the family, it announced last week that it will no longer operate in South Africa.