Gupta cops’ drug claim
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Some of the 11 Tshwane metro police officers – suspended for moonlighting as VIP security at the Gupta wedding – claim to have video footage showing illicit drugs offloaded from the Gupta chartered jet. They have allegedly blackmailed the Tshwane Metro Police Department to drop the charges or else they will release the mysterious video.
The Sunday Independent was informed that the police officers tried to indirectly negotiate a plea bargain with the head of metro police Steven Ngobeni by threatening to go public with the video footage.
Three sources, two top city officials and an insider with intimate knowledge of the matter, confirmed the stand off between the metro police and its officers.
The city officials declined to be named because of their role in the matter while the insider preferred to remain anonymous for fear of compromising and revealing the identity of his associates.
Neither The Sunday Independent nor the sources saw the video and therefore could not corroborate whether it actually exists or their claims were a mere blackmail tactic to clinch a deal.
The officers were involved in escorting and providing security for the guests invited to the wedding of Vega Gupta, the niece of the controversial South African Gupta family, and Aakash Jahajgarhia.
The wedding sparked a national rumpus after the more than 200 guests landed at the Waterkloof Air Force Base without authorisation, leading to five government officials being placed on special leave and triggering a high level probe.
Shortly after the officers were arrested and charged, they approached a senior Tshwane metro official with their demands. They claim that the footage shows:
- That there were boxes containing drugs. It is not clear whether they were referring to medicinal or illegal recreational drugs.
- That President Jacob Zuma attended the wedding in Sun City last week contrary to his office’s assertion that he did not. Last week Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj flatly denied that the president attended when The Sunday Independent approached him regarding a similar claim from a Sun City contractor. The claim could not be corroborated with substantiated evidence.
Maharaj said yesterday: “If it is true that such a video exists, those cops should face the full might of the law and their bluffs should be called.”
- That the Guptas bought Jahajgarhia an exotic sport car that was test-driven under the watchful eye of the police flying squad.
The senior Tshwane police officer, who was approached by the suspended cops, went to Ngobeni with their demands.
Ngobeni apparently went to city mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa who wanted nothing to do with the officers’ claims and asked the metro chief to deal with the issue.
Ramokgopa’s spokesman Blessing Manale said the mayor was not aware of the footage.
The metro chief apparently refused to enter into any deals, calling the officer’s bluff and went ahead with the suspension.
“They are bluffing. …The city has no business to protect anyone, so we don’t understand why we must drop the charges.... In fact, they must be charged for not doing their job as police (officers) and arrest whoever was doing anything illegal. It is defeating the ends of justice,” said the city official.
It is not clear why the metro police department did not investigate whether the video footage exists, and if so, its authenticity.
Tshwane Metro police executive director Console Tleane declined to comment.
The Sunday Independent spoke to one of the suspended officers on condition that his name would not be disclosed.
The sergeant initially referred our enquiry to his “representative”, who insisted that the officer be paid for the information.
When contacted directly, the officer also demanded to be paid. The Sunday Independent abides by the Press Council’s code of conduct, which states that: “No payment shall be made for feature articles to persons engaged in crime or other notorious misbehaviour, or to convicted persons or their associates…. except where the material concerned ought to be published in the public interest and the payment is necessary for this to be done.”
However, after contacting city officials regarding what they described as “blackmail”, we called the officer again.
He declined to comment.
The officers are also facing charges of using official firearms outside the jurisdiction of the city.
Apparently, they were exposed by their SAPS colleagues who demanded their firearm licences.
The metro officers allegedly produced their appointment certificates.
The criminal charges against some of them were dropped.
Meanwhile, the Gupta family have been accused of trying to acquire diplomatic passports from International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
Two sources, independent of each other, claimed that one of the Gupta brothers approached the minister early last year, citing busy business schedules as the reason for requesting the diplomatic passports.
But Nkoana-Mashabane refused to issue the passports, saying they were not diplomats.
International Relations spokesman Clayson Monyela said yesterday: “We get requests from individuals all the time asking for diplomatic passports….we explain to those who don’t qualify that they can’t get them.”
Gupta family spokesman Gary Naidoo yesterday said that they would not respond to “incredulous allegations from journalists,...not least of which have been yours”.
“It would seem that journalists have come to believe that (the) right of reply justifies publishing these far-fetch allegations.
“We have therefore opted not to respond to yours and other allegations...seemingly fed to competing journalists by the same faceless source,” said Naidoo. - The Sunday Independent