Gupta fugitive to pen tell-all book

Rajesh Sundaram. (Gallo)

Rajesh Sundaram. (Gallo)

Get ready for 50 Shades of Gupta on the bookshelves before Christmas - maybe not with as much eroticism as the EL James novel, but it'll have more than enough dominance, submission and masochism in it.

Indian editor Rajesh Sundaram told the Mail & Guardian this week that he has clinched a deal with a South African publisher to tell the tale of his ­disastrous three-month stint at the Gupta family's ANN7 news channel.

The controversial work permit issued to him when he joined ANN7 will be featured on the cover of the book, which will be titled Indentured.

After quitting his job in August, Sundaram sensationally claimed he was chased from the office by a Gupta bodyguard. The senior editor said he was forced to flee because he feared for his life. This has been vigorously denied by Nazeem Howa, the chief executive of Infinity Media, which owns ANN7.

Once home in New Delhi, Sundaram filed a formal complaint with the South African department of home affairs, alleging that dozens of Indian nationals hired to work at ANN7 a week before its much-criticised launch had been issued with tourist visas in violation of regulations.

Other Indian workers were issued with intra-company transfer and business visas, which had involved "large-scale abuse", he wrote.

In his complaint, Sundaram alleged that the visas were obtained in a matter of days - after influence was exerted by President Jacob Zuma's office.

"I know that political pressure from the highest level was exerted on officials at the South African High Commission in Delhi to expedite these visas," he wrote to the home affairs department.

Howa dismissed Sundaram's claims of any visa irregularities, and said the channel was "fully compliant regarding all legislation and regulations".

"Sundaram's claims regarding the president are another falsehood, designed to embarrass us into acceding to his financial demands," said Howa.

Infinity Media is jointly owned by the Gupta's company, Oakbay Investments, and Indian company Essel Media.

Mabengela Investments, in which the president's son Duduzane Zuma holds a 45% stake, was recently named as the black economic empowerment partner in the company.

Mac Maharaj, spokesperson in the presidency, did not respond to questions about the allegations that his office had assisted ANN7 in obtaining visas for the Indian nationals.

Sundaram has also claimed that he and the other top executives from the channel had attended lengthy meetings with the president, who was given presentations about the channel, and assurances that ANN7 would be pro-ANC and pro-Zuma.

It was a shock, Sundaram said, when he was given 10 days' notice before ANN7 went live.

He was involved in the frantic hiring process before the launch, and he said many of the skills required were available in South Africa but were considered too expensive to hire.
An ANN7 staffer was sent to India to source staff, who Sundaram claimed were issued with tourist visas and "sent to South Africa on the next available flight".

The outcome of the visa debacle now rests with the department of home affairs.

Ronnie Mamoepa, the deputy director general of communications at the department of home affairs, confirmed that an investigation was being conducted into Sundaram's claims about the visas.

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill has been in journalism for more years than she cares to remember. She loves a good story as much now as she did when she first started. The only difference is today she hopes she is giving something back to the country. Read more from Glynnis Underhill

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