Leaked emails show how associates of the Gupta family conspired with Bell Pottinger, the UK firm hired to clean up the Gupta's image, to paint former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas as corrupt.
According to The Times on Monday, the emails show that the plot against Jonas was started a day after he turned down a bribe offer from the Guptas, who offered him the job of finance minister. Jonas has said publicly that the Guptas offered him the post and a large sum of money after former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was fired, which he turned down.
According to the emails, a press release was drafted, purporting to come from a Gupta associate, Hamza Farooqui – a partner of Gupta associate Salim Essa in Vardospan, which was the company which wanted to buy Habib Bank, The Times said.
The statement said:
"I can confirm that I paid inducement fee to Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas, through the chief of staff to the Ministry of Finance, Pule Setai, and relative of Jonas's, as well as provided other benefits, such as flight upgrades and luxury hotel rooms. I am willing to sign an affidavit in support of the above statement. I am making this statement in a bid to shed light on corruption within the Ministry of Finance."
The statement was not released, apparently because a Bell Pottinger employee warned that the media would not run such a story due to the risk of litigation.
Farooqui did not respond to The Times' request for comment, but Gupta family lawyer Gert van der Merwe released a statement on Sunday, saying that the series of stories which resulted from the emails were "another example of fake news".