Atul Gupta in 2014 claimed to have stumbled upon a "100% cure solution" for the devastating Ebola outbreak that was claiming the lives of thousands of West Africans, and asked for information on this supposed cure to be sent to then African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Emails obtained by City Press, News24's sister publication, show that Gupta was contacted by Gagan Kumar, an Indian businessman from a controversial producer of traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine, in November 2014.
"As per your talked with p p Acharya Balkrishan ji maharaj we are sending you detail [sic]," Kumar wrote Gupta.
The email's subject line read "Ebola Research Paper", and the mail included a 42-page document detailing the Patanjali Foundation's work on "Ebola Viral Research".
The Acharya Balkrishan referred to by Kumar is in fact Acharya Balkrishan, also known as Balkrishna Suvedi, the managing director of Patanjali Ayurved Limited, an Indian consumer goods company with annual revenue of around R20bn.
Balkrishan is listed by Forbes magazine as India's 46th richest person and apparently boasts a personal net worth of between R33bn and R46bn.
Balkrishan is also listed as a co-founder of the Patanjali Research Foundation in the document sent to Gupta. The other founder of the foundation is listed as a prominent Indian yoga guru called Shri Baba Ramadev.
A video posted to YouTube in June 2014, five months before Gupta forwarded details on the foundation's Ebola research to a group of business associates, shows Ajay and Atul Gupta sitting on stage at an event in India alongside Balkrishan and Ramadev.
After Kumar sent the email to Gupta, he then forwarded the Ebola research document to several of the family's long-serving associates, including former Oakbay Investments CEO Nazeem Howa and Sahara Computers CEO Ashu Chawla.
Gupta seemed very enthusiastic about the Ebola research and urged his colleagues to help ensure the information reached the ears of Dlamini-Zuma, who was still AU commission chair.
"This is the 100% cure solution for Ebola virus done by one of the largest Ayurvedic research institute in India [sic]. See if you can send it via AU Chair via or anyone else you can think of, so we can send some sample medication to treat them asap. Or talk to me for more clarity," wrote Gupta.
Gupta's email seems to suggest that the family's broader business network had at that stage already established a line of communication with Dlamini-Zuma, who now appears to be one of the frontrunners in the ANC's succession battle.
Sibi Qubule, a spokesperson for Dlamini-Zuma, said Ebola-related research during that period would have gone directly to the AU's social development department.
She said the AU had received a lot of research at the time, and could not confirm if the Gupta's recommendation had been part of it.
She also said Dlamini-Zuma had no relationship with the Guptas during her tenure as AU chair.
Asked if Dlamini-Zuma currently had a relationship with the Guptas, she replied: "I don't know, you have to ask her."
The west African Ebola virus outbreak, which started in 2013 and was finally contained in 2016, ultimately claimed the lives of more than 11 000 people in countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Though it is not clear whether the information passed on by Gupta was ever considered by the AU or the governments of any of the affected countries, there seems to be little scientific evidence suggesting that Ayurvedic medicine would have helped to fight a disease as deadly as Ebola.
"The effectiveness of Ayurveda has not been proven in scientific studies, but early research suggests that certain herbs may offer potential therapeutic value," the American Cancer Society stated in a research paper in 2014.