Rajesh and Atul Gupta were detained by UAE law-enforcement authorities on Monday. In case you forgot: the Guptas are believed to have stolen R500 billion under Zuma’s rule. When their empire began crumbling, the family fled to Dubai. So, what’s life like for ‘fugitives of justice’?
Articles by The National and Bloomberg detail the lavish life that the brothers lived, all while their names gather dust on South Africa’s most wanted list. Corruption aside, little is really known about the Gupta’s personal lives. But Prateek Chaudhry, a Dubai-based designer and friend of the Guptas, drew the curtains back a little – and we’re definitely prying.
Chaudhry, a frequent visitor to the Guptas Emirates Hills home, spoke to The National. He described them as “tight-knit”. “The brothers worked together and were very close,” he added (although we know that much already).
Families that fraud together stay together. Chaudhry said that the entire family – brothers, mothers, children and beyond – resided in the same home. He placed a big emphasis on the brothers’ mom, describing her as the “centre of the home”. She would reportedly lead prayers each evening and be part of “international” meetings. Meals were said to be shared together and they “only ate vegetarian food”.
Guests visiting were included in evening prayers and made to feel welcome. One such guest was allegedly Duduzane Zuma, son of our former president. It sounds simple and wholesome, right? Chaudhry spent a lot of time with Atul between 2018 and 2019. He’s described as different to “other wealthy people” and quiet – nothing “blingy” about him. The house itself, on the other hand, is a lot less subtle, according to Chaudhry’s descriptions.
Here’s a glimpse into the Gupta palace/prison in Dubai:
The after-dinner washup would probably have been tasked to the “35 members of staff, with butlers hired from the city’s top hotels”.
It’s believed that tens of millions were spent on luxury property and decor within the 40 000sq ft, 10-bedroom house that features a grand staircase, hand-painted central dome, multiple reception rooms with marble floors, and chandeliers. That’s not to mention the gold fixtures and vintage furniture, including a couch that was once owned by Michael Jackson and other collectables by the Tsars (Russian monarchs).
Chaudhry said that the garage could fit more than 10 cars, of which one was a “rare Rolls-Royce Twilight limited edition”. Outside the house, the Emirates Hills community is all tree-lined pathways, lush greenery, and of course, features a champion golf course.
The latest visitors to the palace were the police. News24 reported that officers from the Criminal Investigations Department rang the doorbell, and the brothers were “undramatically” arrested. Far from silver spoons and 5-star service, Rajesh and Atul are currently being held behind bars at an undisclosed prison. Their lawyers are reportedly preparing to fight their pending extradition.
Picture: Knight Frank, 2016