Ajay Gupta allegedly used his political clout with the backing of former president Jacob Zuma to obtain shares in a company linked to Kgalema Motlanthe’s wife, Gugu Mtshali.
Testifying at the state capture inquiry on Tuesday, former State Security Agency (SSA) director Gibson Njenje detailed a series of meetings with Mtshali, Gupta and former Mineworkers Investment Company (MIC) chairman Archie Luhlabo in 2010. This was less than a year after Njenje started in the position.
Njenje said he had been driving home from OR Tambo International Airport on a Sunday when he received a call from his “long-time friend” Luhlabo, who asked him to come to Sandton for an urgent meeting.
One of the Gupta brothers, Ajay, allegedly wanted 90% of the shares in Imperial Crown Trading (ICT) for free, the commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Tuesday.
“The Gupta brother said they are not greedy, it’s just that there are too many of them on this side that will be sharing the percentage,” the former domestic head of intelligence, Gibson Njenje said.
“Ajay initially wanted 90% of the shares for free. He said he would not pay for it but through his influence and financial backing he will assist ICT to get out of its problems,” he added.
“He said ‘I am not taking the company’, we are going to help them. Ten percent is better than nothing.”
Njenje was a mediator between Gugu Mtshali and Archie Luhlabo, who had stakes in ICT, and Ajay Gupta.
He was also the head of the branch that wanted to investigate the activities of the controversial family.
When probed by commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo as to why he was “appointed” the mediator, Njenje explained he was friends with Luhlabo.
“It was the very first time meeting Ajay. He said I know your name and I know where you work,” Njenje said.
Evidence leader Advocate Paul Pretorius then asked him: “What did you gather from that?”
“I couldn’t make out why he was saying so at the time. At a subsequent meeting, he then told me why he knows about me,” Njenje explained.
There was allegedly a final concession that both parties should split the shares 50/50, but Ajay apparently maintained he would not pay for them.
Njenje subsequently met with Ajay following the dispute for the sole purpose of inquiring “about their influence on the president”, he said.
“When we sat down he told me he agreed I should be the one to mediate because after Gugu called him, he checked with the president whether or not I am the right person. The president said to him, ‘that is a good old friend – he will sort things out’,” Njenje recalled.
When the former intelligence boss further probed Ajay about the problems they were causing for the president by talking about him and the governing party, Ajay allegedly agreed with the concerns.
“He said you are right, I have no issue – I don’t talk about him, he is my friend – I will have to talk to my brother because he is the one that was doing this.
“I assumed he was talking about his brother, Atul,” Njenje concluded.
The inquiry continues.