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Meet the Guptas, Symbols of South African Corruption

Ajay, left, and Atul Gupta
Ajay, left, and Atul GuptaPhotographer: Martin Rhodes/Business Day/Gallo Images

The three Gupta brothers have come to embody the corruption that blighted South African President Jacob Zuma’s almost nine-year rule. They allegedly used their friendship with the president and business ties to his son, Duduzane, to influence cabinet appointments and secure illicit state contracts worth billions of dollars. They fled South Africa for Dubai in early 2018 after the ruling party forced Zuma to quit and were charged with graft later that year. In June 2022, two of the Gupta brothers were arrested in Dubai to face possible extradition and trial in South Africa. 

The three brothers -- Atul, Rajesh and Ajay -- became so enmeshed in national politics under Zuma that their families and associates were collectively known as the Zuptas. The brothers arrived in South Africa from India in the early 1990s as apartheid rule was drawing to a close. Starting with a small technology company, they built a business empire spanning newspapers, cable television, uranium and coal mines. They set up a sprawling compound in Johannesburg’s upmarket Saxonwold suburb, bought a fleet of luxury cars and threw lavish parties. Their public notoriety dates back to 2013, when they landed an aircraft at a high-security air-force base to ferry private guests to an opulent, four-day family wedding. In February 2018, police raided their compound, while immigration officials descended on the offices of one of the TV stations they used to own. The Guptas, Zuma and his son have denied wrongdoing.