Prince Andrew is interviewed by the BBC's Emily Maitlis about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.
  • The Telegraph claims a "secret" company set up by Britain's Prince Andrew had business links with a South African-US investment firm called Issar.
  • There are three companies registered in South Africa called Issar – all linked to Iqbal Sharma, the disgraced former director-general of the department of trade and industry.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider South Africa.

A "secret" company set up by Britain's Prince Andrew may have a South African connection, according to an investigation by The Daily Telegraph.

The UK publication reported last week that the Duke of York registered entities under the name "Andrew Inverness", to “channel deals brokered in Buckingham Palace”.

He was given the title Earl of Inverness in 1986. The Telegraph said "critics will suggest that in deliberately choosing to register the businesses under the name ‘Andrew Inverness’, the Duke was attempting to avoid scrutiny".

The Telegraph claims that one of the businesses, Urramoor Limited, which was set up in 2013, had a joint venture with a “US-South African investment firm” called Issar, which according to the report described Urramoor as “The Private Investment Office of HRH Duke of York”. Issar UK was supposed to lead “the joint venture between Issar and Urramoor”. However, there does not seem to be any evidence that Prince Andrew - via his company - did business with Issar.

Business Insider SA could find only a couple of companies called Issar across the world, none of them investment firms.

But in South Africa there are three companies registered under the Issar name – and they all have one person in common: Iqbal Sharma, the disgraced former director-general of the department of trade and industry and former Transnet tender boss, who had close ties with the Gupta family.

Last year, a report by Mncedisi Ndlovu & Sedumedi Attorneys recommended that Transnet lay criminal charges against Sharma. It found that Sharma, as chairperson of the Transnet board's acquisitions and disposals committee, may have unduly benefitted from a tender to build 1,064 locomotives.

He had failed to declare his business relationship with Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa in a company that was securing work from the bidders, the report found.

Read: Why Transnet board committee's Iqbal Sharma must be prosecuted - report

After founding Issar Capital in 2010, Sharma resigned as director in 2014. But according to company records, he remains the only director of Issar Investment Holdings and Issar Management Services, which still share a physical address with Issar Capital. Issar Capital’s only other director was the CEO of Gupta-owned JIC Mining, JP Arora, who was gunned down in Midrand in 2018.

Arora was also a director of Gupta-linked Oakbay Metals and served alongside Rajesh Gupta and Duduzane Zuma on the board of Westdawn Investments.

Sharma is married to Bollywood actress Tarina Patel, and their “stunning Indian palace" in Sandton was featured on Top Billing earlier this year, with him described as founder and executive chairman of Issar.  

iqbal sharma
Iqbal Sharma with his wife Tarina Patel on Top Billing earlier this year. (YouTube)

According to Issar’s website, the company – also via its partner P3 Africa (headed by Sharma) - “advises governmental leaders, international organisations, companies, private foundations and non-governmental organisations how to expand and strengthen new strategic collaborations”.

A 2015 version of the website cited two American advisors - Todd E. Benson, a former managing partner of Citi Private Equity, and consultant Jeffrey R. Shafer – as “strategic alliance partners”. According to the website, Issar is represented in the UK, the US, China and the United Arab Emirates, the apparent current residence of the Gupta family.

The current version of the website includes a video of Sharma taking part in a Time/CNN panel discussion while he was still a South African government deputy director general.

Sharma was with the SA department of trade and industry for more than a decade since 2001.

Prince Andrew became Britain's "special representative" for trade and investment in the same year. His job was to build trade relationships with other countries, and he visited South Africa and met with government officials.

He was forced to give up the position after controversies surrounding his relationship with the sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, as well as meetings with dubious Libyan and Tunisian officials.

Sharma did not respond to calls and requests for more information.

Compiled by Helena Wasserman

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