The Gupta brothers are busy erecting a massive Hindu temple in their home town of Saharanpur in northern India at a cost of more than R200 million.
The Shiva temple, in memory of their late father Kumar, is expected to significantly raise the standing of Saharanpur among India’s Hindu population. (Shiva is one of the three most important gods in the Hindu religion, known as “the destroyer of ignorance”.)
According to residents of Saharanpur, the temple is part of the family’s investment in the spiritual wellbeing of the residents.
The eldest Gupta brother, Ajay, in particular enjoys enormous high standing in Saharanpur. Speaking to Indian journalists this week, Rapport, sister newspaper of City Press, said some residents even go as far as describing him as a “living god”.
The family’s status and influence in India is mainly thanks to their alleged influence among politicians and dignitaries.
For example, Ajay was allegedly recently accompanied by a special cavalcade of the Bahujan Samaj Party (one of the five biggest political parties in India) when he went for a swim in the Ganges River on a visit to his home country. (According to Hindu religion, the Ganges has special healing powers.)
Residents of Saharanpur say the cavalcades and escort helicopters that swarm the town are always a sure sign that one of the Gupta brothers has arrived from South Africa.
Some years ago, the family even brought the Protea cricket team to their home town for a party, which was attended by a number of Bollywood stars.
Anil Kapoor, who starred in Slumdog Millionaire, is a good friend of the family. He also stays either in Saxonwold or at the family’s home in Constantia in Cape Town. This house was previously owned by Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
Masood Badar, who oversees the family’s humanitarian investments in India, says Ajay has already helped more than 20 poor families “with affluent husbands for their daughters”. He also supports various temples, universities and hospitals.
Rapport has established that the Guptas make use of the Oppenheimer family’s ultraluxurious facilities at the OR Tambo airport when they travel.
The Guptas’ two business jets, a Sovereign and a Global Express 6000, use the facilities of Fireblade Aviation, an Oppenheimer company. This company, which provides services to the super-rich, has its own terminal with customs facilities, a spa and even a place to sleep.
Oakbay this week did not respond to questions about whether the family’s investments in India and the R226 million for the temple in Saharanpur are financed with profits from their South African companies.
The family recently took out two full-page advertisements in The New Age, the local newspaper they own, to strongly deny that any of their South African profits are leaving the country.
In the adverts many of the myths and allegations thrown their way are refuted.
Among other things, they mention that their companies, ranging from mining interests to the computer industry and the media, give work to 4 500 people. They have also invested more than R10 billion in the country. – Additional reporting by the Hindustan Times