09/04/2017 09:19 SAST | Updated 09/04/2017 13:37 SAST

The 'Fake News' Gupta Military Vehicle Is Illegal Unless Demilitarised

Playing fast and loose with facts? Representatives for the Guptas first slammed questions about an armoured vehicle as "fake news" and later admitted its existence.

Photo: Gallo Images/ Kevin Sutherland: 7 Saxonwold Drive in Saxonwold, Johannesburg, part of the massive Gupta family compound. The row of houses cost more than R52 million, and is in one of Johannesburg's most exclusive suburbs.

An armoured vehicle stationed at the Gupta compound belongs to the family and is being used for "safety purposes", family attorney Gert van der Merwe has told Rapport.

The vehicle, photographed a week ago by The Huffington Post SA, is being kept on the property as the family believes police can no longer guarantee their safety from angry protestors. Police used a stun grenade on Friday to disperse protestors outside the Saxonwold property following tensions between anti-Zuma demonstrators and members of the Black First Land First (BLF) movement.

'You're trying to create fake news'

Deputy Managing Director of Sahara Computers, Gary Naidoo last week denied the presence of an armoured vehicle on the Saxonwold property altogether, contradicting the family attorney's more recent admission that the vehicle is owned by the Guptas and held on the property for security purposes.

Naidoo last week accused a Huffington Post SA reporter of "imagining things" or "trying to create fake news" when asked for comment on the origins of the vehicle. In addition to ignoring photographic evidence of the armoured vehicle on the property, Naidoo said the Gupta family had not been in the process of ramping up security as claimed by security guards on site, also contradicting the family attorney's statement detailing their perceived safety concerns.

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The vehicle strongly resembles the Griffin armoured vehicle manufactured by Scipio Technologies in Boksburg, a Rapport investigation has shown. Scipio is registered with the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC), a statutory body responsible for the regulation of trade of conventional arms. The company is consequently permitted to manufacture armoured vehicles only for military and not private use.

Scipio markets the defense vehicle as an "extremely flexible and agile battlefield tool" that can be "configured as per client preferences to a simple armoured personel carrier or as an effective wheeled combat vehicle".

The Gupta family's defence business network.

The 21-year old son of Rajesh Gupta, Sashank Singhala, in whose name the company is registered, has denied any connection between Scipio Technologies and the Guptas, according to Rapport. The company register, however, lists the Guptas' residential address as the company's address.

The Financial Times in March 2016 also listed Scipio Technologies as a holding of Oakbay Investments, the Gupta family company with stakes in multiple entities including The New Age newspaper and broadcaster ANN7. Oakbay Investment's own website lists Scipio Technologies as a 'useful link'.

Pieter van der Merwe, CEO of another Gupta company called VR Laser Services and younger brother of the Guptas' attorney, would neither confirm nor deny to Rapport whether the vehicle had been built by Scipio. Van der Merwe had previously represented Scipio at an arms fair in Abu Dhabi at which the armoured vehicle on show resembled the vehicle currently stationed in Saxonwold.

Chairperson of the Arms Control Committee, Minister Jeff Radebe confirmed to Rapport the matter of the vehicle will be reported to the police. Radebe confirmed that ownership of a vehicle intended for military use is illegal unless the vehicle is demilitarised.

The Democratic Alliance's Shadow Minister of Defence Kobus Marais said in a statement on Sunday that the party will write to Radebe seeking confirmation on whether the Gupta family has permission to own the armoured vehicle.