The address of the Gupta family’s opulent Dubai mansion – which once had the most expensive asking price of any home in the entire United Arab Emirates – has been confirmed for the first time in a tranche of emails detailing the controversial family’s links with President Jacob Zuma and his government.
The emails, which City Press obtained over the weekend, show the extent to which the Guptas have managed to ingratiate themselves into government, and meddle in the appointments of Cabinet ministers and in the boards of state-owned entities.
In one email from Sahara Computers’ chief executive, Ashu Chawla, to the concierge at the posh Oberoi Hotel in Dubai, sent on January 3 2016, he writes: “Can you please arrange drop-off for tomorrow morning at 7 for Dr Dan Mantsha to L35 Emirates Hills.”
This is the first confirmation that the palatial home in Dubai’s most expensive neighbourhood belongs to the Guptas.
In May last year, City Press reported that when villa L35 in Emirates Hills came on to the market in March 2015, it was advertised as “awaiting a VVIP ... with deep pockets”.
The listing price was R448 million and it was at the time the most expensive house in the UAE.
The extravagant mansion is decorated in gold and marble and has 10 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, nine reception rooms, a double grand staircase, a hand-painted dome, parking for 11 cars, and chandeliers in almost every room.
The house is extravagant even by Dubai’s standards.
Elaborate gold crests are bolted to both entrance gates on the sprawling corner plot, bearing the words “Gupta” and “Saharanpur”.
The emails show that Mantsha was taken to the house, as was former acting Eskom chief executive Matshela Koko.
Other people of interest who, emails show, the Guptas booked into the luxury hotel The Oberoi include Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane, businessman and arms deal protagonist Fana Hlongwane, President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane, and two of Free State premier Ace Magashule’s sons Thato and Tshepiso.
A Dubai estate agent told City Press at the time that although Emirates Hills has a reputation as Dubai’s most expensive suburb, “per square metre it isn’t”.
The size of the properties, built around the five-star The Address Montgomerie Dubai hotel and golf course, reduce the price of property per square metre compared with apartments in the Burj Khalifa tower, where Duduzane Zuma owns a flat.
When City Press visited Dubai’s Department of Land to try to confirm whether the Guptas bought villa L35 and for how much, we were laughed off by a clerk who said that, in Dubai, these records weren’t public.
At the time, estate agents said property in Dubai had become a safe haven, like gold.
Most things aren’t public in Dubai. Even the buildings are elusive – huge skyscrapers of reflective glass have names like Indigo Tower and Fortune Tower but they give no clue to what goes on inside.
Unlike South Africa, few companies and their directors are listed on a public register, there’s no disclosure of beneficial ownership, and property records can’t be obtained without a power of attorney.