The Gupta family and its billionaire guest, Mukesh Ambani, were treated like Cabinet ministers by the police's protection and security services unit during the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosted in South Africa, News24 reported on Friday.
"We were just told that there is an Indian minister that needed to be escorted."Unnamed Source
The Guptas and their associates enjoyed VIP treatment at the World Cup from the protection unit, which escorted them to several locations in and around Johannesburg.
"We were just told that there was an Indian minister that needed to be escorted. The people were then taken to a house in Saxonwold, which we later learnt was a guesthouse owned by one of the Guptas' companies," said one of the sources.
The protection of private business owners does not fall within the unit's mandate, which is to look after Cabinet ministers and high-ranking government officials, as well as foreign dignitaries involved in government affairs.
The unit was reportedly ordered to accompany the Guptas and their guests before, during and after the World Cup's final match at Soccer City in Johannesburg.
In 2010, the Guptas hosted Ambani, who is India's richest man with a net worth R300 billion, claiming to the police unit that he was a "minister from India".
The VIP unit was first ordered to pick up an Indian "minister" from OR Tambo International Airport after the tournament had kicked off, according to the sources. The unit soon realised that the person it was escorting was not a government official, but a guest of the influential family.
Ambani was reportedly put up in a "guesthouse" in the same street in Saxonworld where the Gupta compound is located. One of the sources said a Gupta family member with a "broad, round face" and President Jacob Zuma's son, Duduzane Zuma, were mostly around whenever the Guptas' guests needed to be escorted by the VIP officers.
This was before the Waterkloof-landing debacle, when the Guptas were still relatively unknown.
2010 World Cup
Gupta family members, Duduzane Zuma and the Indian guests allegedly attended the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands at Soccer City in Johannesburg.
"The Guptas watched the match from a VIP box where heads of state and other senior government officials were watching the game," said one of the sources.
The sources said that the group was driven around in a convoy and had to be escorted to the VIP box.
Dr Johan Burger, a security expert from the Institute for Security Studies, told News24 that neither Duduzane Zuma nor private business people such as the Guptas or Ambani qualify for protection from the police's VIP unit.
"The VIP unit is already stretched to capacity. If it also had to cater for wealthy businessmen, the unit would not be able to function."
According to Burger, Duduzane Zuma did not qualify for VIP protection as he was not a dependent of President Jacob Zuma and no longer formed part of his immediate household.
This story originally appeared in an exclusive News24 report