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.