The protection of private business people does not fall within the unit’s mandate.
The Guptas played host to Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani and his family during the tournament.
The Guptas and some of their friends and associates were treated like Cabinet ministers by the South African Police Service (SAPS) during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, with members of the police’s VIP unit escorting the Gupta party to several locations in and around Johannesburg.
It was revealed that the Guptas received protection from the SAPS’ VIP Protection Services, a sub-unit of the police’s Protection and Security Services (PSS), on five separate occasions during the 2010 tournament.
The unit is supposed to look after Cabinet ministers and other high ranking South African government officials, foreign dignitaries and other VIPs involved in government affairs.
It appears that the Guptas may have secured VIP police protection based on a claim they allegedly made that Ambani was a “minister” from India.
Ambani, the chairperson and largest shareholder of Reliance Industries Limited, is ranked by Forbes as India’s richest person. His net worth is estimated to be near $23bn (around R297bn).
Sources close to the police’s VIP unit have described in detail to News24 how members of the squad were ordered to accompany the Guptas and their guests before, during and after the World Cup’s final match at Soccer City in Johannesburg in July 2010.
According to the sources, the VIP unit was first ordered to pick up an Indian “minister” from OR Tambo International Airport after the tournament had kicked off.
The sources say that the unit soon learned that the person they were supposed to escort was not a government official, but instead merely a friend and guest of a powerful business family from Johannesburg.
Big scandals, such as the Waterkloof debacle, were still a few years away, and the Guptas were relatively unknown at that stage.
“We were just told that there is 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.
News24 was able to determine, through property records, that the “guesthouse” our source referred to is a property owned by Islandsite Investments 180, a company that owns many of the Guptas’ upmarket properties around the country.
The house is also located on the same street as the Guptas’ infamous compound situated across the road from the Johannesburg zoo.
According to the source, the Gupta brother with the “broad, round face” and Duduzane Zuma, were mostly around whenever the Guptas’ guests needed to be escorted by the VIP officers.
The Gupta brother referred to by the source may have been Ajay, the eldest of the Gupta trio, though this could not be confirmed.
Over the course of the next few days before the World Cup final at Soccer City, the VIP unit on separate occasions escorted the party from Saxonwold to the Lion and Safari Park near Hartbeespoort and to the Grand Central Airport in Midrand, from where the Guptas, their guests and Duduzane Zuma flew in a private aircraft to an unknown location.