Gupta e-mails are in Zondo’s court. Then, hopefully, it’s Hawks’ turn
The Hawks will have access to a treasure trove of 200,000 e-mails if state capture probe admits them as evidence
A possible ruling that the “Gupta Leaks” e-mails can be admitted into evidence at the state capture inquiry could result in the police’s elite corruption-busting unit officially using the data as part of criminal investigations.
If commission chair Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, rules that the Gupta Leaks can be admitted, the Hawks would have access to about 200,000 e-mails obtained via hard drives from Gupta-owned company Sahara Computers, which contained sensitive information on how the infamous family, their associates and certain cabinet ministers had captured SA’s parastatals.
On Thursday the commission heard how the e-mails were already under investigation by the “American authorities”.
But Zondo questioned whether he needed to order an admission of all of the e-mails at this stage in the inquiry, and suggested he may only agree to admit those that had already been analysed by commission investigators.
Inquiry legal team heavyweight Paul Pretorius made it clear commission investigators believed that not only were the e-mails genuine, but their authenticity could be proved through proper forensic investigation.
The importance of Zondo’s decision to the Hawks was clearly evident in the presence of the unit’s advocate Vincent Siwela at Thursday’s proceedings. As yet, the Hawks are understood to not have been given access to the hard drives.
Instead, then acting Hawks head Yolisa Matakata last year said the unit had investigated revelations contained in the Gupta Leaks media reports.
“We’ve never seen the actual e-mails that reference is made of, but we have information that speaks to some of these e-mails,” she said, later adding the Hawks were trying to obtain the originals of documents contained in the e-mails as part of their investigation process.
Atul Gupta, former Mineral Resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane and Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba have all reportedly questioned whether the e-mails implicating them in alleged state capture corruption are authentic.
Pretorius said inquiry investigator Terence Nombembe had been advised by his own experts “that they appear to be of the view that the data is authentic”.
“In other words, that data is what it appears to be, on the face of it, created by actual persons whose names and identities appear on the e-mails, in real time, rather than being manufactured later as fakes by someone wishing to make those e-mails look genuine when in fact they were not,” Pretorius said.
Both he and evidence leader Advocate Kate Hofmeyr stressed that the information contained in the Gupta Leaks stories published in the media was a “small percentage” of the e-mails now in the inquiry’s possession.
He added there were certain “indicators of authenticity” that could establish that the e-mails were not fake, and could not be fake. These included the “hidden data” contained in e-mails.
“The number of e-mail communications … comprised of transactions in the numbers of hundreds of thousands. That, on its own, is an indication that the probability of someone faking the totality is extremely low,” Pretorius argued.
“Generally, someone can accept that it is highly improbable that someone old sit down and fake hundreds of thousands of e-mails.”
Both Pretorius and Hofmeyr say the Gupta Leaks data “may well play a role in future criminal and civil proceedings”, although it’s currently unclear if and how the Hawks will seek to access this data from the inquiry.
Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi did not respond to requests for comment.
The hearing continues on Friday.