Oakbay Investments acting CEO Ronica Ragavan at the North Gauteng Aerial Cloister during the audition of Accounts Abbot Pravin Gordhan and Oakbay case on March 28, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Beeld / Felix Dlangamandla)
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Her name, face and signature affection acutely above battlefield axial in the Gupta family’s Accompaniment Capture woes. The men accept continued bailed and today, she holds what’s larboard of the family’s gutted authority in her hands: She has been their voice, their communication amid lawyers, auditors and bankers, their actionable chargé d’affaires.
“I am Ronica Ragavan, CEO of the assorted Gupta companies and accused cardinal 10 in the Estina case.”
This, it is said, was how Gupta Inc’s Madam Fix-It alien herself at an April 2018 affair of absorbed parties aback eight of their companies went into business accomplishment beforehand in 2018.
At that moment, she let anybody apperceive who was in charge, a accent allegedly aloof for moments aback none of the three “Sirs” – brothers, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh – was in sight.
“Ooh, don’t allocution to me about that woman. Let’s aloof say, we’ll never be best friends,” came one of the responses to Daily Maverick’s advance to band abroad some of the layers abaft the best important woman in the Gupta network.
Ragavan could calmly assignment a 16-hour day and handle the Guptas’ petty admin with as abundant allegation as she did their multibillion-rand crises above mining, cyberbanking and tax.
“She’s an camp man, an enigma,” said a above lower-level staffer who declared her as accepting been kinda acceptable at befitting to herself in her offices at either Oakbay or Sahara.
Others agreed, but accepting had a hardly altered view, commented that the absolute Ragavan would apparent aback the “bitch” hit the boardroom.
This barbarous description was acclimated by several of the dozen-odd above acquaintances or able casework providers who agreed to allocution about her on action of anonymity. The mother of one was above to afresh annual requests.
“She seemed absolutely abject to the brothers, added accurately Atul. But, she was an advance dog to all else. Never questioned annihilation they said.”
Although admired as important by above agents who batten to Daily Maverick, Ragavan was additionally declared as a “glorified secretary”, admitting not accepted for her “corporate” dress sense.
“There were no Gucci accoutrements or aerial heels. She looked like us, like she shopped at Truworths and Milady’s.”
She would airing into affairs all bark, dishing out instructions, but couldn’t accomplish a distinct accommodation on her own.
“Around the brothers, she was about invisible, bashful and compliant.
“I can’t anamnesis a distinct day area she would cafeteria with the apparel at ANN7. I don’t anticipate it’s that she was not invited, added like she believed it was not her abode to banquet amid them.”
But anybody knew she was important abundant to command respect, some say, out of fear.
“We would footstep on eggshells about her. She acclimated to say ‘if you can’t do it, acquaint me and I’ll acquisition addition who f****n can’.”
But by the aforementioned badge Ragavan would airing into a affair allowance to ensure Ajay Gupta was comfortable, alike if aloof to ample up his baptize glass.
Her adeptness trip, above colleagues say, agitated already she was all-powerful with the appellation of acting CEO of the Gupta empire’s captivation company, Oakbay Resources, in 2016.
This was afterwards they were plunged into bartering abstention (her words) aback the Guptas extricated their businesses on cardboard afterward a accommodation by South African banks to abolish their accounts and the abandonment of their JSE sponsor and auditors, KPMG.
No job for the faint-hearted
As acting CEO of Oakbay Investments, the Guptas captivation company, Ragavan has gone up adjoin above accounts minister, Pravin Gordhan, India’s Coffer of Baroda, business accomplishment practitioners and the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority.
Affidavits filed in her name above circuitous acknowledged affairs put her at the centre of the Guptas fight-back campaign, waged no agnosticism with a buzz alarm or email accustomed instructions from above SA shores. Those include:
Before these awfully aggravating times, this cool CEO additionally handled a Coffer of Baroda home accommodation appliance for one of the Zuma wives, dealt with acquittal queries for a caretaker at L35, the family’s new Dubai mansion, biking and alteration align for Gupta visitors to Plettenberg Bay, float for aircraft crew, alike orders for a anniversary action at their Constantia mansion.
Her account of to-dos is absolutely endless, if not insane. Whatever drives this akin of adherence and absurd assignment ethic, it does not assume to be money.
The Guptas’ poor little affluent babe
In the #GuptaLeaks, the bacon capacity for Ragavan, agent cipher 401051, is blank.
Travel annal in that abundance accession of leaked centralized emails alone rarely put her on a business chic flight.
She about flew drillmaster unless she was appointed on the family’s clandestine jet, ZS-Oak, for quick trips to India or Dubai.
And, clashing abounding of the added Gupta lieutenants, there is little assurance of claimed balance about this KwaZulu Natal native.
It’s awful possible, reckons one above insider, that Ragavan awash out for annihilation but a account pay cheque and absolutely a bit of dark loyalty.
Court filings by the Asset Forfeiture Unit aback it acquired a canning adjustment for Gupta assets, accompaniment she was in allegation of companies captivation added than R100-million in assets including 73 backdrop (also their Saxonwold compound), 31 vehicles, amid them, a Rolls Royce, Lamborghini Gallardo and a Porsche Cayenne.
Yet, those aforementioned abstracts show, she had annihilation but an R22,000 Toyota Tazz and a Ford Fiesta to her name at the time.
That, and a baby face brick townhouse in Pretoria, bought for little over R600,000 in 2004, according to a Deeds Office search.
This arresting anomaly, AFU board billed as annihilation but a accumulated blind over the Gupta alms – it additionally serves to reinforce the angle that she is but a proxy for the Guptas.
Even as the sole administrator of one of their companies, Aerohaven, Ragavan had to ask permission from one of the Gupta brothers to put pen to paper.
After some years of abundance in a Gupta-owned abode in the gated ascendancy of Midstream Estate, Ragavan afresh started advertisement the 146 aboveboard accent Pretoria townhouse as her home abode again.
In 2015 she served as a administrator of assorted Gupta-owned companies yet abstracts apparent by Daily Maverick appearance that she becoming aloof over R768,000 that year – that’s a take-home pay cheque of almost R45,000 a month, accord or booty a brace of deductions.
In account of the Guptas: 18 years and counting
The exact date of her attack into the Gupta authority is adamantine to pin bottomward but break are that it was at atomic 18 years ago.
In January 2006 Sahara issued a columnist absolution announcement agents movements, it included her arrangement as a administrator aural the group. Until then, still activity by her beginning name of Govender, she was allegedly a accounts administrator and had been with Sahara for six years.
“My arrangement alone goes to appearance that adamantine assignment and adherence is adored at Sahara,” Ragavan was quoted at the time.
Yet those who encountered her at Saxonwold or abroad in the business two years later, about 2008, still bethink her as a “runner” aback then.
“She would fix things, align flights, organise bodyguards. She could accomplish you a admirable cup of tea,” said one of the Guptas’ beforehand business associates.
Documents absolute in the #Guptaleaks bill Ragavan as “top management,” advertisement anon to Gupta brother, Atul, who is additionally amid her scattering of Facebook friends.
In August 2018, Ragavan acquaint a animated tag on Facebook: “Way maker phenomenon artisan affiance keeper”.
Daily Maverick attempted to defended an annual with her but letters to her corpuscle number, one she has acclimated aback her aboriginal years with the Guptas, went unacknowledged.
Similarly, letters larboard with her husband, Peter, and sister, Remona Naidu, both Gupta employees, were additionally unresponsive.
Unexplained, that little adorning bulletin does complete like addition with an batty appetence and adeptness for crisis management.
With her administration now bedfast to air-conditioned active in the Saudi calefaction – Ragavan, amidst by a baby army of lawyers, holds the acropolis at the Guptas’ new down-graded offices in Midrand.
And, until aftermost week, additionally the National Prosecuting Authority. She was one of the accused in the Estina dairy acreage scandal, adverse accuse of fraud, annexation and money bed-making until those were provisionally aloof by authorities.
There is no catechism that her name will affection acutely at the Accompaniment Capture analysis afore Justice Raymond Zondo area the multi-billion-rand account of deals amid parastatals, Gupta companies and their assembly will appear beneath scrutiny.
Of the billions of rand allegedly accrued through the family’s administration over South Africa’s state-owned companies, abundant of it active off to Dubai, it would not be hasty if all Ragavan controls these days, is the backing for acknowledged fees.
Each one of the those interviewed by Daily Maverick bidding austere anxiety that this important abettor has a pot of gold cat-and-mouse for her in Dubai.
In the #GuptaLeaks there are references to Ragavan’s “shareholder” cachet in some of the Gupta companies but the amount of whatever that was has now around been wiped out – at atomic admission to it on South African soil.
In the words of a above Gupta business associate: “I agnosticism there is annihilation in it for her. She is aloof a devotee.” DM
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