Monday, April 18, 2016

The Republic of Zuptania: Part 2

If the timeline provided in the previous post is not too much information in itself, then the sheer amount of corporations and people involved in this scam are nothing short of confounding.

The Corporate Players
1.     Oakbay Resources and Energy
Oakbay Resources and Energy is the parent company of the following smaller companies with their shareholding in the parent company in brackets (pre-JSE listing) and also shareholders in the individual firms
-         Oakbay Investments (79.99%)
o   Atul Gupta (30%)
o   Chetali Gupta (30%)
o   Islandsite 180 (40%)
§  Atul Gupta (25%)
§  Chetali Gupta (25%)
§  Rajesh Gupta (25%)
§  Arti Gupta (25%)
-         Action Investments (8.47%)
o   HK Agarwal (89.06%)
o   Vinod Agarwal (10.94%)
-         Saranya (5.65%)
o   Nikhil Agarwal (99.99%)
o   S Bharwaj (0.01%)
-         Unlimited (2.31%)
o   Kamran AG Radiowala (99.9995%)
o   Faizya K Radiowala (0.0005%)
-         IDC (3.57%)
-         Oakbay Group Employees (0.0004%)

What is clear from this breakdown is that Atul Gupta and, presumably, his wife Chetali controls 80% of Oakbay investments, also giving them a majority (controlling) share of 63.992% in Oakbay Holdings.

2.     Mabengela Investments
Mabengela Investments is a “Black Economic Empowerment” company and seems to be the main investment vehicle for Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane who owns a 45% share and serves as a director of the company. The only other director and notable shareholder with a 25% stake is Rajesh “Tony” Gupta.

3.     Islandsite Investments 255/254
Like Mabengela, the only listed directors of Islandsite Investments 255 is Duduzane Zuma and Rajesh “Tony” Gupta.

4.     Shiva Uranium
A joint venture between Oakbay Holdings (74%) and “subsidiary” Islandsite Investments 255 (26%). Currently owns of the Dominion Uranium Mine outside Klerksdorp, North West Province as well as prospecting rights one thousands of hectares.

5.     Imperial Crown Trading 289 (ICT)
While not directly linked to abovementioned companies, 50% of ICT’s shares were allocated to Pragad Investment, of which Jagdish Parekh is the sole shareholder. Parekh also happens to be CEO of both Shiva Uranium and Tegeta Resources and Exploration.

6.     Westdawn Investments (JIC Mining Services)
Formerly from the Mvelapanda Holdings Stable, purchased in 2005/06 during a joint venture between Oakbay Investments (57.6%), Gemini Moon Trading (28%) and Lexshell 702 Investment (14.4%) aimed at providing mining services. Duduzane Zuma is both a shareholder of Gemini Moon Trading 254, via his stake in Mabengela, and a director along with Rajesh “Tony” Gupta.

7.     VR Laser Services
A steel manufacturing company of which 74.9% is owned by Salim Essa through his complete ownership of Elgasolve. The remainder of the shares in the company is owned by Craysure Investments, which in turn is completely owned by Westdawn Investments.

8.     Tegeta Exploration & Resources
Founded as subsidiary of Oakbay Investments, Tegeta is set to buy Optimum Colliery from Glencore after the mine ran into financial troubles following the reousrce price slump and R2.2 billion ESKOM fine in 2014. Salim Essa’s Elgasolve reportedly owns a 22% stake in Tegeta, while Duduzane Zuma’s Mabengela Investments owns 28.5%.

If this is not confusing enough, there are even more corporations involved in this Empire (Alec Hogg claims as many as twelve), but those mentioned seem to be the bigger ones that can be primarily tied in with the Guptas and Duduzane Zuma. The number one question raised by this structure, to my mind at least, is why such a complex corporate web is necessary in the first place?

If Duduzane Zuma’s claims about being a self-made businessman are accurate and if there is indeed no political influence behind the success of the Gupta’s, then why do they find it necessary to hide their respective interests behind layer upon layer of corporate malarkey?

The answer, of course, is that people with things to hide show a general proclivity towards attempts at hiding them and with all the distance the individuals put between themselves and their operatives, it is a structure that is far more reflective of that normally in place for a crime syndicate.

“La Familia” (The Family)
This entire structure is, of course, comprised of and driven by people. While I will not provide any more information on the “big players” in Atul and Rajesh Gupta and Duduzane Zuma, since enough has been written about them already, I have discovered a virtual army of shady characters and operators involved in this matter that merit “investigation” in their own regard. This is especially true in the cases of Ajay Gupta and President Jacob Zuma who seem to be the “invisible hands pulling the strings,” since so little (none, in fact) concrete evidence of their involvement in this saga is available.

1.     Ajay Gupta
While Ajay Gupta may hold no financial stake in any of the family’s businesses, he is described (in a 2013 Mail & Guardian article) as the head of the Gupta family. This position puts him in charge of formulating the family’s business strategies and also in control of the family’s finances. The final decision regarding the family’s finances falls to him, which would imply that he must have intimate knowledge of every decision and every “investment” the family has made. It is therefore not only probable, but likely, that Ajay Gupta is the man at the helm of the ship and the mastermind behind the Gupta Business Empire. Younger brothers Atul and Rajesh are naught but the lieutenants in the Gupta Business Empire, but in true Mafioso fashion, Ajay Gupta has taken great pains to insulate himself from scrutiny.

2.     Jacob Zuma
As stated there is no direct evidence, outside of hearsay, of the President’s direct involvement in any of the Gupta businesses, but there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that not only indicate that he was well aware of what was going on, but that he started playing an active role to benefit these businesses from the political side of the spectrum.

While his relation to Duduzane Zuma is meaningless in itself, a close study of the timeline makes it clear that there has been a very rapid growth in Duduzane Zuma’s involvement and expansion of the Gupta business empire following Jacob Zuma’s election as President of the ANC and heir apparent to the Presidency of the Republic. As pertains to the first few years, say until mid-2014, one could make the argument that Duduzane and his associates were merely riding on the President’s “coat tails” and that he was blissfully ignorant of this fact. But thanks to hindsight being the perfect science, it seems that something changed during the latter half of 2014.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that the President came to realize his own political “mortality” at the start of his second term, especially amid the debacle surrounding the Public Protector’s report on Nkandla that just would not go away, or perhaps it is because the previous business ventures had not taken off to the degree that the Guptas had hoped for; Shiva Uranium wasn’t (and still isn’t) doing all that well, the public mostly shunned the New Age Newspaper, the bid for the prospecting rights at Sishen failed in the Constitutional Court, ANN7 was (and still is) the laughing stock of the country’s media and Tegeta Exploration and Resources was just another small time mining operation that nobody even heard of.

Whatever the case may be, the latter half of 2014 saw the start of political moves being made that could fall well within the scope of President Zuma’s political power and influence all of which seemed to directly benefit the Gupta Business Empire. While one instance of such a benefit would surely be a coincidence, a series of such instances forms a pattern that would indicate that President Zuma knowingly and purposefully made the decisions that he did. It is also interesting to note how Zuma’s machinations have gotten more and more brazen as the political pressure on him has increased, to the point where it is now “open kimono” with regards to Zuma’s unmasked and unpretentious support of SARS commissioner Tom Moyane in defiance of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.

3.     Mark Pamensky
Less than two weeks after the Jonas Revelation, founder Alec Hogg reported on the Bizarre Case of Mark Pamensky and while I agree with Alec that Pamensky’s appointment to the ESKOM Board of Directors (December 2014) a mere three months after he was appointed to the Oakbay Board of Directors (September 2014) warrants further investigation, I would like to add another Gupta dimension to the matter of the Optimum Coal Scandal that Hogg also reported on in February of this year.

At the time of Pamensky’s appointment ESKOM’s was buying coal from the Optimum Mine (on a 25 year contract dating back to 1993) under the Glencore PLC Banner for its Hendrina power plant but as the mine aged, the quality of the coal deteriorated, the cost of mining kept climbing and it seems that Optimum had been providing coal to ESKOM at a loss since 2012. While this might certainly be the natural progression for any mining operation, ESKOM ultimately slapped Optimum Mine with a R2.2 billion fine to recover losses incurred for the delivery of sub-specification coal, as it is entitled to do under the contract.

Again, not sinister in itself, but where it gets hazy, even if one ignores the interventions of Minister Mosebeni Zwane in this instance, is where reports indicate that the coal delivered over the three years prior to the fine was in fact acceptable, judging by the efficiency reports of the Hendrina Plant, but the real “cloak and dagger” stuff started when ESKOM insisted that the fine on the Optimum mine would be kept in place, even in the event that the mine itself is sold to another operator. One would think that any such fines would be levied against the operator of the mine and not the mine itself, but what this leads to in the Optimum case is the effective doubling of the sale price, since Tegeta ultimately bought the mine for R2.15 billion. I cannot think of a better way to dissuade any possible competitors than to increase the sale price by more than 100%. Time will tell if it would indeed levy this fine on Tegeta and if the sale will ultimately be concluded, so we can only speculate as to what would have happened had the bomb not gone off.

4.     Jagdish Parekh
Jagdish Parekh is mostly unknown character involved in this, but he is perhaps also the one character that could point to the fact that the Gupta State Capture goes back much further than we ever really knew about. It all appears to have started in 2014, but when you factor Parekh into the mix, you have to go back all the way to the Sishen Mining Rights dispute that started way back in 2010. The major player in that particular dispute was Imperial Crown Trading in which Parekh, who was described in a 2011 business day article on the Guptas as “the Managing Director of the family’s investment vehicle Oakbay Investments” personally held a 50% stake. The Sishen Mining rights ultimately proved to be a false start, but it is still reasonable to assume that Parekh has had intimate knowledge of all Gupta Business related dealings following this moment in time and perhaps even sooner, but I could uncover no evidence to positively point to that fact.

He should be brought into the investigation along with Pamensky.

5.     Salim Essa
Perhaps the shadiest character in this whole sordid saga, Salim Essa’s sole job seems to be cultivating relationships with people that can then later exert massive influence over State Owned Enterprises. A recent article by the Mail & Guardian’s centre for investigative journalism, Amabhungane (dated 24 March 2016), revealed Essa’s direct ties not only to five current members of the ESKOM board, but also ties to people with direct influence over decisions made at Transnet, Denel and the Department of Mineral Resources.

If one studies the histories of Essa and his mentioned associates a pattern emerges whereby Essa cultivates relationships with potentially influential people, only to have those relationships terminated just prior to these people being elected into positions where they can exert large amounts of influence over economic sectors in which the Guptas have large interests. Two sources contributing to the Amabhungane article even went as far as to state that Essa acts as a proxy for the Guptas.

Salim Essa seems to be the major lynchpin in the Gupta Business Empire Family and if we manage to get our hands on him, he might prove to be extremely insightful.

6.     Iqbal Sharma
Sharma is one of the many people that Essa has sought a relationship with in order to promote the business interests of the Guptas. Sharma first came into the spotlight when VR Laser services was the apparent frontrunner to receive a sizable chunk of the planned R50 billion locomotive tenders that Transnet put out, with Sharma being Chairman of the board committee responsible for overseeing the tender process. At the time, at least, Sharma owned a company Issar Capital which in turn was the sole owner of VRLS Properties. VRLS properties, in turn owned the premises on which the VR Laser Services factories stand and even the name of VRLS Properties seems to be tied into VRLS laser services. Not only does this mean that there was a lease agreement between VRLS Properties (Sharma) and VR Laser services Elgasolve (Essa), but it also emerged that both these gentlemen (if they qualify as such) were directors of a company named Daqo South Africa.

With everything taken into account, what you are left with is a veritable labyrinth of companies and people that all fit together somehow and if a picture is worth more than the thousands of words I’ve already used, then perhaps we would be better served by my own amateurish attempts at an infographic.


  1. Fantastic. Thanks. Where is part One?

    1. All three parts can be found on the home page of the blog. Alternatively, part one can be found by clicking older post at the bottom of the page.