Ajay and Atul Gupta File picture: Independent Media
Johannesburg - The Guptas are increasingly running out of places to hide and means to fly away from accounting for state capture as the government, its Indian and Canadian counterparts, ratchet up the crackdown on the brothers.

On Monday, the Indian tax authorities attached more than 30 properties of the controversial family, while the high court in Joburg ruled that they bring back a jet they bought, using a loan from a credit agency owned by the Canadian government.

The court ordered that the Gupta brothers must return to South Africa the private jet they purchased with a loan from Export Development Canada (EDC), after the agency applied for its grounding.

The Guptas had secured a $41million (about R493.7m) loan from the finance institution to buy the jet, which is registered in South Africa.

Read: Gupta property raided in India

Canadian bank wins court bid to ground Gupta jet

EDC had expressed concerns that the Guptas could be using the jet to run away from the authorities, following their implication in acts of corruption in the country.

The court ordered that the plane be grounded and kept at Lanseria Airport until the EDC’s bid to eventually retrieve the plane is finalised in the British courts.

One of the lawyers working on the case in the country said the Guptas could spend years dodging the court order, before they would know if they would ever get back the plane. Its whereabouts is unknown.

“This matter can take years before the British courts are able to finalise it. Our application was for the plane to be kept in a place of safety, while the matter is not decided,” said the lawyer.

The plane’s whereabouts was still unknown at the time of the ruling, because the tracking device was switched off.

The company, whose core mandate according to its website, is “to support and develop Canada’s export trade by helping Canadian companies respond to international business opportunities”, feared reputational damage if it continued being associated with the Guptas.

The eldest Gupta brother, Ajay, has been declared a fugitive and remains on the run, despite being wanted by the Hawks in relation to the Free State Vrede dairy farm fraud case, in which the Guptas allegedly siphoned off R220million.

Also read: INSIGHT: The Gupta empire is crumbling

The Guptas are set to be the major subject of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State of Capture. Investigations have started.

The Guptas, through their lawyers, have slammed the move by the parliamentary inquiry into state capture to call on them to come and testify on allegations against them, calling it “political show-boating”.

Since the ANC’s 54th national elective conference in December, where President Cyril Ramaphosa emerged as the new party leader, the Gupta empire, built on a close association with former president Jacob Zuma, has been crumbling.

The Indian government’s Bank of Baroda, which has been the only one servicing the Guptas, has been granted permission to close its operations in South Africa, leaving the family’s companies without banking services.

The Guptas have accused the EDC of rejecting its proposal to pay off the bank for the jet, instead of surrendering it to them.

The agency said it could not accept money from the Gupta family as it could be proceeds of crime, given the allegations levelled against them.

They also feared the plane could be seized by the National Prosecuting Authority’s Asset Forfeiture Unit, which has frozen accounts and assets of several Gupta-linked companies as it investigated the Vrede dairy matter.

It was, however, unclear when the controversial brothers will either come back to the country to bring back the jet or appeal against the high court ruling through their lawyers.

While the Gupta brothers remained on the run from the country’s law-enforcement agencies, it emerged on Monday that the Indian authorities were targeting their properties for tax evasion.

The Times of India reported that the family’s properties in Saharanpur in the State of Uttar Pradesh and in the State of Uttarakhand were raided by the income tax department in relation to allegations of money laundering and corruptly amassing properties within the states.

The Guptas are originally from Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India, and have reportedly moved to Dubai.

The tax authorities have reportedly given them until Monday to report back to India and present themselves to the department and answer to the allegations against them.

Political Bureau