Fly-by-night Guptas dodge payment and vanish as jet goes off the radar

Atul Gupta and his brothers are on the run. /Robert Tshabalala
Atul Gupta and his brothers are on the run. /Robert Tshabalala

Former president Jacob Zuma's friends, the Gupta family, are allegedly on the run from the repo man to evade the repossession of their luxurious private jet, ZS-OAK.

Some of the brothers have also been declared fugitives by police who have offered rewards for their arrest and capture.

So desperate is the family to evade the long arm of the law and the handing over of the controversial aircraft to its Canadian owners, that they have also allegedly removed the tracking device from the private jet to block the signal and hide their whereabouts.

Central to the matter which is set to play out in the South Gauteng High Court in Joburg next month, in an urgent application, is the Gupta family's refusal to hand over the Bombardier Global 6000 with registration ZS-OAK which is registered under their company Westdawn Investments.

According to court documents filed on Thursday, and seen by Sunday World, this was also prompted by the Guptas' failure to service the quarterly rental on their $41-million loan they acquired from a state-owned entity owned by the Canadian government, the Export Development Canada (EDC).

The Gupta ZS-OAK private jet./ Supplied
The Gupta ZS-OAK private jet./ Supplied

In the papers, the company also alleges that Atul Gupta and his wife, Chetali, who signed the loan agreements as guarantors, duped them by submitting doctored financial statements of their company Oakbay Investments, the parent company of Westdawn Investments. They did this apparently to boost their chances of acquiring the loan to purchase the jet.

"The financial statements of Oakbay did not fairly represent the correct position ... It's financial position has been grossly overstated," EDC said in the documents.

The company also claims that it later discovered that Atul and Chetali Gupta had also signed as guarantors on the loan repayments citing assets which were also used as security on other financial transactions with the Bank of Baroda.

The National Prosecuting Authority and the South African Civil Aviation Authority (Sacaa) have also been listed as interested parties in the matter and are cited as fifth and sixth respondents.

ECD is seeking an urgent court interdict to compel the Guptas to hand over the private jet, and also to instruct the Sacaa to cancel the registration of their private jet to force it to be grounded.

Sacaa spokesman Pappie Maja confirmed that the aviation authority was served with a notice of motion about the matter.

"The Sacaa will abide by the court decision and has no reason to oppose the application," Maja said.

According to the court papers, the Gupta family secured the loan to purchase the aircraft after making a down payment of $10-million (R117-million).

However, the court papers indicate that the Gupta family defaulted on their agreement with the company between October 2017 and January 2018 and the EDC retaliated by terminating the lease agreement and ordering the immediate repossession of the plane.

The company said the Guptas refused to surrender the plane and have been flying in and out of countries such as India, Russia and South Africa.

"The defaulting parties are in an unlawful possession of the aircraft," Brian Craig, a senior special risks manager at EDC, said in his affidavit.

The court papers further state that the Guptas were in arrears to an amount of $27-million at the time of the application.

The company said it was no longer interested in receiving any payments from the Guptas and just wanted them to bring back the plane.

EDC also argued in its notice of motion that its decision to terminate the agreement was necessitated by multiple defaults by the Guptas and also cited the preservation order which was secured by the NPA to freeze some of the Gupta family assets.

The company said it also feared the Guptas will use the private jet for unlawful and corrupt purposes including fleeing from justice and to take money out of the country.

EDC lawyer, Vladislav Movshovich of Webber Wentzel, confirmed that the matter was filed in court.

NPA spokeswoman Phindi Louw-Mjonondwane said she was not aware of the matter and promised to consult with the National Director of Public Prosecutions, but had not responded by late yesterday. The Gupta brothers could not be reached.