CityPress - - News - SETUMO STONE setumo.stone@city­press.co.za

The New Age news­pa­per, owned by the Gupta fam­ily, scored up to R17.1 mil­lion in an al­leged mon­ey­laun­der­ing scheme in­volv­ing Eric Wood, CEO of Gupta-linked fi­nan­cial ser­vices ad­vi­sory group, Tril­lian.

So say emails and doc­u­ments be­fore the Pre­to­ria High Court by Reg­i­ments Cap­i­tal, a com­peti­tor com­pany of which Wood had been a di­rec­tor for nearly 12 years un­til Fe­bru­ary, when he be­came CEO of Tril­lian.

Tril­lian is 60% owned by close Gupta as­so­ciate Salim Essa.

Reg­i­ments di­rec­tor Litha Ny­ho­nyha said in court pa­pers filed this week that un­der Wood’s di­rec­tion, three fake Reg­i­ments in­voices to­tal­ing R15 mil­lion, plus VAT of R2.1 mil­lion, were con­cocted to give the “com­pletely false im­pres­sion” that Reg­i­ments had done work for IT com­pany Tech­nol­ogy & Pro­cure­ment Hold­ings (Tech­pro).

“Then – with Wood’s knowl­edge and par­tic­i­pa­tion – the New Age news­pa­per sent Reg­i­ments three match­ing fake in­voices for R15 mil­lion plus VAT, which falsely pre­tended that the news­pa­per had pro­vided ad­ver­tis­ing to Reg­i­ments,” he said.

Both Reg­i­ments and Tril­lian were cited in the for­mer pub­lic pro­tec­tor’s State of Cap­ture re­port, re­leased ear­lier this month, for their al­leged role in the Gup­tas’ con­tro­ver­sial coal-sup­ply con­tract to Eskom, and their con­tracts with state-owned com­pany Transnet.

This is yet an­other mon­ey­laun­der­ing al­le­ga­tion against the Gup­tas, fol­low­ing amaBhun­gane’s re­port last month that de­tailed ev­i­dence of about R250 mil­lion in ap­par­ent kick­backs for con­tracts at state-owned com­pa­nies that was al­legedly laun­dered.

AmaBhun­gane re­ported that six months’ bank records from 2014 and 2015 re­veal about R190 mil­lion was washed from let­ter­box com­pany Homix to a sim­i­larly ob­scure com­pany. Homix then dis­patched mul­ti­ple pay­ments to­talling an­other R65 mil­lion to Hong Kong, where Essa hap­pens to share a busi­ness ad­dress with a com­pany that re­ceived some of the pro­ceeds.

Reg­i­ments Cap­i­tal’s on­go­ing court bat­tle re­lates to a mat­ter in which Wood sought to de­clare his for­mer col­leagues delin­quent. Reg­i­ments had also filed a sim­i­lar court ap­pli­ca­tion against Wood – in­clud­ing ev­i­dence that Wood knew that Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma would fire for­mer fi­nance min­is­ter Nh­lanahla Nene two months be­fore it hap­pened.

This al­le­ga­tion is con­tained in an­other set of emails show­ing a dis­cus­sion be­tween Wood and Co­op­er­a­tive Gov­er­nance Min­is­ter Des Van Rooyen’s ad­vi­sor Ian Whit­ley, dis­cussing the new pri­or­i­ties for the Trea­sury once Zuma had re­moved Nene and put Van Rooyen in charge.

Nhy­on­hya said in court pa­pers this week that Reg­i­ments had noth­ing to do with Tech­pro, had done no work for the com­pany, and that Tech­pro did not owe Reg­i­ments the money.

“Reg­i­ments did not ad­ver­tise and has never ad­ver­tised in the New Age news­pa­per, much less did it owe it R15 mil­lion plus VAT. I do not know of any pos­si­ble le­git­i­mate ba­sis for the false in­voices in this trans­ac­tion,” he said in court pa­pers.

He added that the “the fi­nal leg of the fraud in which Wood par­tic­i­pated was a dou­ble false pay­ment through Reg­i­ments’ bank ac­count: the first pay­ment of R17.1 mil­lion was made into Reg­i­ments’ bank ac­count dis­guised as pay­ment for fic­ti­tious ser­vices ren­dered to Tech­pro”.

“[It was] fol­lowed im­me­di­ately by an ex­act match­ing pay­ment of R17.1 mil­lion out of Reg­i­ments’ ac­count to The New Age news­pa­per, which was an equally false pre­tence of pay­ing a nonex­is­tent debt to that news­pa­per”.

Nhy­on­hya said “the ef­fect was to laun­der R17.1 mil­lion through Reg­i­ments’ ac­count”.

Other doc­u­ments in­clude a copy of the ser­vice agree­ment be­tween Tech­pro and Reg­i­ments and a blacked-out state­ment of Reg­i­ments’ Stan­dard Bank ac­count show­ing two trans­ac­tions: a credit trans­fer of R17.1 mil­lion to Reg­i­ments and a pay­ment of R17.1 mil­lion to The New Age, both on the same day.

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