Guptagate: India says plane landed after proper ‘authorization’

Shivpal Singh Yadav
Shivpal Singh Yadav

PRETORIA: After a top Indian diplomat was accused of “manipulation” by South Africa to obtain permission for landing of an aircraft chartered by a well-connected Indian family at a military air base here, India has said there was proper “authorization” and that some wedding guests on board the plane had invitation for bilateral engagements.

“The senior Indian officials and their delegations were in South Africa for bilateral engagements with the Free State government,” High Commission said in a statement here.

“The visit of Shivpal Singh Yadav, minister of public works and irrigation (Uttar Pradesh government), and the delegation accompanying the minister, was an official visit, which took place at the invitation of the Free State government,” it said.

“A memorandum of intent was signed between the Free State and Uttar Pradesh government for a broad based co-operation covering economic development, irrigation and agriculture sectors,” the statement said.

A controversy – dubbed as “Guptagate” – erupted and made global headlines when the plane chartered by well-connected Gupta family, carrying around 200 guests from India, landed at Waterkloof Air Force base here on April 29 allegedly without proper authorization for a lavish wedding. The incident also caused an outcry over the breach of security at a national key point.

The billionaire Gupta family, which has close ties to President Jacob Zuma, celebrated the wedding of Vega Gupta, 23, to India-born Aaskash Jahajgarhia at Sun City on May 3.

The wedding, billed as ‘the South African wedding of the century’, also had Bollywood actors and singers flying in for an extravagant celebration.

The High Commission’s reaction came after a probe into the controversial landing implicated a senior Indian High Commission official for “name-dropping” and “manipulation” and absolved Zuma.

The High Commission also said that “authorization for landing was provided to the mission by the South African Air Force on April 9”. The statement contradicts of the interim probe report by the South African government that the plane had landed there “irregularly”.

Releasing the findings of the interim investigation on Sunday, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe has said one of the findings was that the landing of a chartered commercial aircraft was a direct result of “manipulation of processes” and that names had been “dropped” in the course of events.-PTI

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