South Africa's Nene Says He Was Wrong to Meet Guptas at Their Home

(Bloomberg) -- South African Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said he was wrong to meet the Gupta family at their house and should have disclosed these encounters.

“These visits do cast a shadow on my conduct as a public office bearer,” Nene said in an emailed statement Friday. “I deeply regret these lapses and beg your forgiveness.”

South Africa's Nene Says He Was Wrong to Meet Guptas at Their Home

The statement comes after Nene on Wednesday told a commission of inquiry into graft under former President Jacob Zuma that he visited the Gupta home in the Johannesburg suburb Saxonwold four times while he was deputy ministers and twice during his first stint as finance minister. Until this week, he never disclosed these meetings and told a local broadcaster that he only encountered the Guptas in passing at public gatherings.

The Guptas are friends with Zuma and in business with his son and are implicated in allegations of graft and undue influence over government appointments and contracts. They and Zuma have denied wrongdoing.

“As soon as I became aware of the controversy swirling around the family’s business dealings, I should, subject to there being a legitimate reason for doing so, have met Guptas, at my office accompanied, as is customary, by a Ministry of Finance or National Treasury official,” Nene said in the statement.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma’s successor, reappointed Nene as finance minister in February. That was part of drive to rid South Africa of corruption that’s brought changes at the top management of state-owned companies.

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