The commission of inquiry into state capture heard an application for electronic data to be submitted as evidence on Thursday.
The electronic data, physically located on a hard drive, consists of tens of thousands of Gupta-linked emails that detail the extent of the family’s role in state capture. The commission is now in possession of the original hard drives as well as copies.
The emails include correspondence between Gupta family members, former president Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzani, leading government officials and officials from state-owned enterprises.
The emails in question were leaked to the media which resulted in exposés in the City Press and Sunday Times newspapers and amaBhungane and Daily Maverick’s explosive #GuptaLeaks reporting.
The hard drive originally came into the possession of a whistle-blower who has not been named for safety reasons. The whistle-blower, referred to as “Stan” at the inquiry, came across the emails which corresponded with what the media had been reporting about state capture.
According to the head of the commission’s legal team Paul Pretorius, Stan didn’t know what to do with the hard drive and after seeking advice from a friend, there was still no way forward. The two then approached lawyer Brian Currin for assistance in April 2017.
In submitting the application, Pretorius gave a brief history of how the commission came to have the hard drives and said that the hard drives contain evidence that is “relevant to the work of this commission”.
In March 2018, Currin reached out to the commission in order to facilitate the use of the hard drive for further investigations.
Pretorius says members of the commission including head of investigations Terence Nombembe went to Nairobi, Kenya to meet with the whistle-blowers who handed over the original hard drive to them. The hard drive was then brought back to South Africa and placed under strict security.
The original hard drive was damaged at this point but an expert from Europe managed to recover “99.98269%” of the data that was lost, according to Pretorius. The expert then created a forensic image, a more technical term for a copy, which the commission is also in possession of.
Pretorius addressed the question of the authenticity of the hard drives by saying that it is “highly improbable” that someone would create hundreds of thousands of fake emails.
Pretorius noted that when authentic emails are sent, there is hidden data that is recorded and that the hard drives have this data. Again, he pointed out that it is improbable that someone could have created this hidden data for all the emails.
“Given the electronic environment of the emails contained in the forensic image of the hard drive, it is impossible to fake emails in a way that avoids detection.”
Pretorius also noted that data can be kept on external servers which will help in verifying the emails.
Shortly before the inquiry reopened on Thursday, the Democratic Alliance held a picket outside the venue during which party leader Mmusi Maimane called for members of the ANC who are implicated in state capture to testify there.
“State capture is an act of corruption. Our call is that the ANC must come and appear. If we are going to ensure that state capture never happens again then the ANC must account.”
Deputy federal executive chairperson Natasha Mazzone pointed out that South Africa and the UAE — which included Dubai — have signed an extradition treaty.
“The Guptas have nowhere to hide.”
The inquiry continues with Currin’s testimony.