'I wanted to tackle Ajay's head off his shoulders'
Man who cornered Gupta in Dubai tells of the bet that resulted in the viral video
A R300 bet spurred Stellenbosch salesman Justin van Pletzen on to confront Ajay Gupta outside the Indian consulate in Dubai on Wednesday. He was quick to add, though, that if it weren’t for the strict laws in the country he would have “tackled his [Gupta’s] head off his shoulders”.
The 39-year-old father of two, who has been in the United Arab Emirates city since 2016, told Times Select he could hardly believe it when he called Ajay’s name, and the man came walking over to him – even shaking his hand.
“I wanted to tackle the head off his shoulders. But then I saw the bodyguard behind him and I thought to myself: If you tackle him you are going to get into big trouble, probably going to lose your job, probably going to go to jail. And I thought, just ask him the question. Ask him when he is going home to go face the music.”
The Gupta family are in trouble with tax authorities in their home country of India, and were supposed to appear before tax authorities on Monday to answer questions, but reportedly failed to pitch.Younger brother Atul has been declared a fugitive from justice for his involvement in the alleged theft of more than R200-million from the Estina Dairy Farm project and SA’s elite crime busters the Hawks announced earlier this month that arrest warrants were issued for Ajay and youngest brother Rajesh on other matters.The Gupta brothers are under investigation for their alleged involvement in state capture. Together with their key lieutenants and former president Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane, the businessmen allegedly made off with billions of rands from numerous shady deals, mostly with government departments and state-owned enterprises.
Former Finance minister Pravin Gordhan, now minister of Public Enterprises, has put a price tag on state capture of around R100-billion.
The Guptas are again under fire for the Estina dairy farm project, with curator Eugene Nel soon heading to Dubai to enforce a preservation order obtained by the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit last week for around R200-million the family allegedly siphoned off the project and paid to a company they own in Dubai.
Van Pletzen shared a video of the incident on Facebook, which he has since removed due to concerns over privacy laws in Dubai.
In the video, Van Pletzen can be seen asking Gupta when he was coming back to South Africa.
“When are you going back to South Africa? The country is looking for you,” he asks Gupta.A relaxed and smiling Gupta responds, while laughing: “Any day, any day … they are not looking for me … they are not giving a reply. When they give a reply I will go there.”
Gupta was referring to correspondence between himself and law enforcement through his attorneys, who have demanded to be provided with a copy of the warrant of arrest which the Hawks have said they are under no obligation to provide.
He then strolls away casually before getting into a Maybach Mercedes S600 – worth roughly R2 -million.
“I was outside having a cigarette, having my morning coffee and contemplating life in the desert and he walked past me and I told one of my South African colleagues, bud, that’s Ajay Gupta,” Van Pletzen told Times Select.
The colleague disagreed and an adamant Van Pletzen put money on it, 100 dirham or roughly R300.
“At the end of the day, I saw an opportunity. This man is accused of having robbed my country blind. And they are looking for him, and I wanted to make sure they know he is here and they send someone out here to come arrest his ass and take him home to answer questions,” Van Pletzen explained.Van Pletzen said that he loved his country and what the Gupta family are accused of having done, inexcusable.
“That money should have been used to build schools, to better the lives of the poorest of the poor and to help people. And these people have allegedly siphoned off the money and taken it out of the country for their own benefit.
“No my friend. Every other South African works his arse off to pay his bills, to put his family in a better position, to buy a house to buy a property and what these people do is beyond me.”
He also called for banks to be held accountable and politicians who had been involved in state capture to get jail time.
As for the money from the bet, Van Pletzen said he sends every spare cent he has home to help his ailing father – who suffered two heart attacks last year – pay for his medical bills.
Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi told Times Select their investigation was continuing.
“He can run but can’t hide,” Mulaudzi said.