Ashu Chawla Guptas

An ID document issued for Ashu Chawla. Yes, he somehow managed to get away with wearing sunglasses for the picture ((OUTA)

Meet Gideon Christians: The man who “fixed” Guptas’ visas for the last decade

Malusi Gigaba, the Guptas, and of course, there had to be a middle-man. Gideon Christians certainly played his part for the family.

Ashu Chawla Guptas

An ID document issued for Ashu Chawla. Yes, he somehow managed to get away with wearing sunglasses for the picture ((OUTA)

Malusi Gigaba is due in Parliament on Thursday to clarify the naturalisation process of the Guptas and their family members. As the inquiry digs below the surface, you can expect to hear the name of Gideon Christians popping up throughout the day.

The Home Affairs official has been working for the South African Consulate in New Delhi, India, since 2008. In that time, he has played a major role in getting certain visas sorted out for the Indian billionaires – whether it’s for them, their relatives, or their colleagues.

The Guptas naturalisation process

Ashu Chawla became a naturalised citizen 17 years ago, and as the Organisation for Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) claim, the senior Gupta employee has also been key to greasing the wheels from time-to-time.

During OUTA’s presentation, Heyneke indicated that Ashu Chawla (a senior Gupta employee) wrote to Minister Gigaba in September 2015, requesting the early naturalisation for three members of the Gupta family.

This was approved by the Minister and a certificate of naturalisation was issued on 17 December that same year, despite the DG dismissing the application.

Chawla has worked in close proximity with Christians before. OUTA filed charges against both men last year, as it became obvious Chawla and the Guptas were receiving preferential treatment for their visa applications. It soon became apparent that Christians was being handsomely rewarded for his assistance.

One set of emails even shows Chawla sending Christians details of a selection of secondhand Mini Coopers available for sale in South Africa – a token of “thanks for scratching our back, now let’s scratch yours”.

Who is Gideon Christians?

He was appointed Second Secretary for immigration and civic services at the South African High Commission in New Delhi, back in February 2008. This is the same year that Rajesh and Atul became naturalised in South Africa. However, the evidence provided by OUTA stacks up from there.

Stefanie Fick is the head of OUTA’s Legal Affairs. She has directly implicated Gideon Christians and believes that he is responsible for getting the Guptas into South Africa:

“It would seem that Christians may have assisted to facilitate the immigration of the Gupta family to South Africa. It also appears that Christians is contacting Chawla to ensure that matters are resolved in his favour instead of following formal channels.”

A timeline of corruption between Chawla and Christians

In 2011, an email trail shows Christians asking the Guptas for his “2.5% commission” on their coal deals with China, implying that this immigration official was getting a cut of the brothers’ business profits as a thank you for his help with the visas.

He’s also suspected of using the fast-track visa service to help staff who came from India to work at the ANN7 studios – a news outlet owned by the Guptas – back in 2013.

In that same year, Christians had also contacted Chawla about providing Tanvi Gupta with a business visa, so she could marry Varun Gupta in SA. Vega and Akash Garg – the married couple at the centre of the taxpayer-funded Sun City wedding – also saw their passports forwarded to Christians.

The allegations keep mounting up against him. A cricket administrator linked to the billionaires, who had travel restrictions imposed on him, was also given security clearance by New Delhi.

This eventually became a two-way relationship for Mr Christians, though. In December 2014, Chawla emailed Christians with visas for Dubai for four people who appear to be Christians’ relatives.