Inside the Dubai Palace for the Gupta Brothers in South Africa

    Editorial: It’s been a bad week for suspected criminals in the UAE

    A stately home decorated with gold fixtures and antique furniture is the home of the Gupta family in Dubai.

    Billionaire brothers, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, who allegedly plundered billions from state-owned companies in South Africa, lived for a few years with their families in the luxurious Emirates Hills community in Dubai.

    Dubai Police have arrested Atul and younger brother Rajesh after Interpol put him on a wanted list. South African authorities sought their arrest for fraud, money laundering, and allegedly bribing government officials to secure contracts.

    The stature of the older brother, Ajay, is unclear.

    Almost every piece of furniture has a history, a legacy

    Prateek Choudhury is a Dubai-based designer

    Very little information is available about the personal life of the very private Indian family.

    the National I spoke to Prateek Chaudhry, a Dubai-based designer and friend of the Guptas, to get a glimpse into their lives.

    Mr. Chaudhry, founder and managing director of interior design firm The First Ferry, was a frequent visitor to their home in Emirates Hills and their office on Boulevard Plaza near Burj Khalifa.

    “It is a close-knit family. The two brothers worked together and were very close,” said Mr. Choudary.

    “Everyone stayed in the same house, brothers and their wives and children. They were one big joint family.”

    The furniture was owned by Caesar and Michael Jackson

    JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 2, 2011: Indian businessmen, Ajay Gupta and younger brother Atul Gupta have a one-on-one interview with Business Day in Johannesburg, South Africa on March 2, 2011 regarding their professional relationship.  (Photo by Gallo Images/Business Day/Martin Rhodes)

    When they first met in early 2018, Guptas’ assets in South Africa were frozen as part of an investigation by law enforcement agencies.

    The two brothers are accused of stealing billions of rand from state funds and building a business empire through their ties to former President Jacob Zuma and his family.

    Mr. Choudary spent a lot of time with Atul between 2018 and 2019.

    “There was no sign of him. [Atul]Mr. Chaudhry said.

    “He was very low-key in the way he dressed and spoke. You had to really listen to hear what he was saying.”

    Guptas’ mother presided over the prayer every evening.

    “They only ate vegetarian food. Their mother is the center of the house and the three brothers think of their mother’s world.”

    “I did Pooja Every evening at 7 pm when there Arti or real big Pooja at home. Anyone in the house at that time was invited to be a part of the prayer.”

    Mr. Choudhury often discussed outdoor projects with Mr. Gupta from 10am until late in the evening, and engaged in prayer.

    It was very low profile in the way it was worn and talked about. You had to really listen to hear what he was saying

    Pratik Choudhury in Atul Gupta

    Duduzan Zuma, the son of the former South African president and business partner of the Guptas family, was at home and participated in the evening prayer that Mr. Choudary was invited to.

    The Emirates Hills house had about 35 employees, with servants employed from the best hotels in the city.

    Gold inlays decorate the walls of the 10-bedroom, 40,000-square-foot home that features a grand staircase, a hand-painted central dome, and multiple reception rooms with marble floors and chandeliers.

    The house was furnished with antiques and collectibles.

    The furniture in the living rooms once belonged to the Russian czar, the sofa belonged to Michael Jackson and on display are scale models of six private planes owned by the family.

    “There was gold inlay in the walls but it was not over the top,” said Mr. Choudary.

    “I have seen the most luxurious homes in the Emirates Hills. Here, gold has never caught your eye. I would define architecture as grandiose.

    Almost every piece of furniture has a history, a legacy. There were many collectible pieces of furniture.

    “I have seen the descriptions of the house as luxurious but it is not. It was a mixture of wood panels, gold and marble.”

    The underground car park had a capacity of more than 10 cars, one of which was a limited edition Rolls-Royce Twilight.

    luxury community

    A view of the Emirates Hills community in Dubai.  Photo: Bellevue Estate

    The Emirates Hills community is filled with tree-lined fairways, lush landscaping, many homes overlooking lakes, and the greens of a championship golf course.

    Mr. Chaudhry designs interiors for homes, yachts and landscapes in India and abroad. His small business has also collaborated with Gauri Khan, wife of Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, in homes and restaurants.

    His relations with the Gupta family waned over the past few years as the family frequently traveled abroad.

    The Gupta brothers deny any wrongdoing and have fought against the enforcement of the Red Notices, saying they are victims of political stalking in South Africa.

    “I don’t know what is right and wrong, I just knew it [Atul] Mr. Chaudhry said.

    “I have worked with many rich people. It was different because when he came to my office, no one knew that he was from the powerful Gupta family.

    “Atul was one of the most kind-hearted people I have ever met.

    “When you work with wealthy people, they have an idea and an opinion and that’s always their way.

    “But with Atul, if you have a better idea, he will listen to you.”

    Updated: June 08 2022, 6:58 AM