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Gupta family apologises for wedding jet controversy

May 05, 2013 17:43 IST

A wealthy Indian family in Johannesburg has apologised to the Indian and South African governments as well as to the public for triggering a huge scandal in their effort to host a "memorable" wedding for their daughter that led to the suspension of five senior officials and a probe.

The Gupta family, which has close ties to South African President Jacob Zuma, made global headlines when a plane, chartered by them, carrying around 200 guests from India, landed at Waterkloof Air Force base on Tuesday without proper authorisation.

"In light of what happened... the family would like to issue a general apology to all affected, including the South African and Indian governments, the local authorities, the South African public and especially our guests," Atul Gupta said in a statement. He said his family was "simply trying to give daughter... a memorable wedding on South African soil".

"We also regret any incidents at the Sun City venue of which the family was unaware. The allegations of racism regarding the staff are definitely untrue. If there was an isolated incident involving any of our guest (we) apologise unreservedly to any party affected," Gupta said.

The family, which owns The New Age newspaper and Sahara Computers, celebrated the wedding of Vega Gupta, 23, to India-born Aaskash Jahajgarhia at Sun City on May 3. The wedding, billed as 'the South African wedding of the century', also had Bollywood actors and singers flying in for an extravagant celebration.

Earlier, the Gupta family, which has powerful business interests in South Africa, had said permission to land at Waterkloof was obtained through the Indian High Commission. They said the High Commission had applied for permission for the plane to land at the base, because the delegation included government ministers.

A senior South African diplomat and several defence and police officers have been suspended for their role in allowing the aircraft to land at the restricted base. Several government departments are investigating the matter and have been asked to submit a report within a week. In addition, the escort provided to the Gupta wedding guests who arrived on the plane was not provided by police. A private security company -- which illegally fitted blue lights to vehicles with false number plates -- was involved. The police and

Meanwhile, the Gupta business empire in South Africa could face protest action led by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, South African Broadcasting Corporation reported. The labour federation is threatening mass action over what it says was racist treatment of staff at the Sun City resort in North West during the Gupta wedding. It also accuses the Sun International hotel group of giving the Guptas preferential treatment.

Sun International, Sun City and the Guptas have rejected all the allegations. Union's North West secretary, Solly Phetoe, expects the protests to take place within the next two weeks. "The Gupta people have brought this South Africa into disrepute. It is on that mandate that in the next 14 days Cosatu must lead a mass action against the Guptas in South Africa including Sun International," Phetoe was quoted as saying by SABC.

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