The Gupta family tried to buy out a neighbour who complained about the alleged illegal extensions the family made to its Saxonwold compound in an attempt to rubber stamp their rezoning application.
Leaked Gupta emails show that in 2015 the family’s representative Pieter van der Merwe negotiated with the neighbour Martin Lewison on behalf of the Guptas to purchase the property. Lewison was offered R6-million for the property which is directly adjacent to the Gupta’s huge Johannesburg compound on the north side.
Lewison was part of a group of residents who accused the Guptas of breaking council laws by unlawfully building on their 7 Saxonwold Drive property. The residents claimed the buildings were too big for the stand.
The sale collapsed fter the Guptas‚ through Van der Merwe‚ objected to Lewison’s proposal that his lawyers facilitate the transfer.
In leaked emails‚ Lewison wrote: “Hi Pieter. It is irregular for the purchaser’s Attorney to do the transfer and the purchaser is always liable for the Attorney’s fees. It is the seller’s prerogative to appoint the conveyancer and therefore I insist that Colin Flax of Hugh Raichlin Attorneys does the transfer. I have no objection to the purchasers Attorney supervising the transfer‚” Lewison wrote.
Van der Merwe then informed Tony Gupta about Lewison’s proposal saying it was “wrong”.
“The only issue I have with Mr Lewison‚ your neighbour‚ is who must do the transfer. He wants his lawyers to do it whilst I said Mr Jaffer (who has been always doing your transfers) must do it. Lewison replied…quite arrogantly that the Purchaser always pays and the Seller always instruct [sic] the attorney. He is wrong and misguided by a practice where people get kickbacks from transferring attorney‚” the email reads.
Lewison confirmed the negotiations to The Times‚ but said the transfer did not materialise.
“In 2014 I was approached by the Guptas wanting to buy my house and a sales agreement was drawn up by them. However‚ in August 2015‚ Tony Gupta informed me that he no longer wanted to buy the house because his family had decided to relocate to Dubai. The sale never happened‚” Lewison said.
Gupta family lawyer Gert van der Merwe said that he had advised his clients not to comment on the leaked emails.
The Guptas’ neighbours had contended that their mansion was far too big for the stand: the building covers 859m² — 170m² more than allowed by zoning regulations.
However‚ the city’s planning committee approved the family’s plans last year‚ sparking a row with other Saxonworld residents.
Upon taking office Mayor Herman Mashaba said that he would institute a probe into the decision by the planning committee to approve the plans.