South African government today suspended four senior defence and police officials following a raging scandal,now tagged as Guptagate, over a private aircraft carrying about 200 guests from India landing on a military airport for a lavish wedding dubbed as ‘the marriage of the century’.
Four high ranking defence officials have been put on “compulsory special leave” relating to the Gupta wedding jet saga,the country’s Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said,a day after the Foreign Ministry’s head of protocol Bruce Koloane became the first victim of the political and diplomatic fallout.
The aircraft,chartered by the prominent Gupta family,which has close ties to President Jacob Zuma,landed at the restricted Waterkloof Air Base in Pretoria on Tuesday en route to the Sun City,allegedly bypassing customs procedures.
The scandal has angered many South Africans who see the controversy as a nexus between politicians and rich business families in the country.
The four officials were from the SA National Defence Force and the SA Police Service (SAPS),Radebe was quoted as saying by SAPA news agency.
The suspended officials were a brigadier-general from the SA Air Force (SAAF) command post,a major from the SAPS operational response unit,a Lt-Col from the movement control office and brigadier-general from the SAAF commanding base.
Briefing the media in Pretoria,ministers from the justice,crime prevention,and security cluster said a preliminary probe had been done,but a full investigation was underway by the directors general of the concerned departments.
The committee of DGs would have seven days to report back to the Cabinet. The government insisted the landing was not cleared by the proper authorities.
In addition,the escort provided to the Gupta wedding guests who arrived on the plane was not provided by police.
A private security company – which illegally fitted blue lights to vehicles with false number plates – was involved.
Police and metro police officers in the security escort had since been arrested,Radebe said.
The billionaire Gupta family,which owns The New Age newspaper and Sahara Computers,celebrated the wedding of Vega Gupta,23,to Indian-born Aaskash Jahajgarhia at Sun City yesterday.
The wedding,billed as ‘the South African wedding of the century’,also has Bollywood actors and singers flying in for an extravagant celebration.
Earlier,the Gupta family,which has powerful business interests in South Africa,had said permission to land at Waterkloof was obtained through the Indian High Commission.
They said the High Commission had applied for permission for the plane to land at the base,because the delegation included government ministers.