In­ves­ti­gat­ing unit is prob­ing al­leged cor­rup­tion by the deputy fi­nance min­is­ter in a deal in­volv­ing SAA’s main­te­nance unit

CityPress - - Front Page - ABRAM MASHEGO abram.mashego@city­

Af­ter un­suc­cess­fully pur­su­ing Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han, the Hawks have now set their sights on his deputy, Mce­bisi Jonas. City Press has es­tab­lished that the Hawks’ Crimes Against the State (Cats) unit is gath­er­ing ev­i­dence that could im­pli­cate Jonas in a case of cor­rup­tion in­volv­ing a sup­plier to SAA’s avi­a­tion main­te­nance divi­sion, SAA Tech­ni­cal (Saat).

The case is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by Cats unit head Bri­gadier Nyameka Xaba, who also in­ves­ti­gated the case against Gord­han and his for­mer SA Rev­enue Ser­vice (Sars) col­leagues, Ivan Pil­lay and Jo­han van Log­geren­berg.

Three months ago, the Hawks sub­mit­ted their docket con­tain­ing the case of fraud, de­feat­ing the ends of jus­tice and con­tra­ven­ing the Pro­vi­sion of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion-Re­lated In­for­ma­tion Act against Gord­han, re­lated to the so-called Project Sun­day Evenings, to Na­tional Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions Shaun Abra­hams for a de­ci­sion on whether he should be pros­e­cuted. Abra­hams is yet to an­nounce a de­ci­sion. The Hawks’ in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Jonas and oth­ers, who, it is al­leged, in­clude sev­eral Saat board mem­bers, be­gan late last year. City Press has learnt from four highly placed sources – three within the Hawks and one within SAA – that, as part of their probe into the air­line, the Hawks are in­ves­ti­gat­ing Jonas for al­legedly in­tro­duc­ing US air­craft main­te­nance and en­gi­neer­ing com­pany AAR Corp to one of Saat’s board mem­bers, re­quest­ing that he “look af­ter them”.

The com­plaint, which City Press has seen, was laid by an un­named Saat board mem­ber.

It con­tains the al­le­ga­tion that Jonas used his po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence as deputy fi­nance min­is­ter to have the com­pany favourably viewed as a sup­plier of air­craft com­po­nents and tyres. This, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­nal Hawks doc­u­ments, was done de­spite the com­pany fail­ing to meet the stip­u­lated ten­der re­quire­ments on three oc­ca­sions.

The Hawks have al­ready in­ter­viewed the Saat board mem­ber who made the claims. It is not clear when ex­actly the al­leged in­ter­fer­ence took place.

“An­other per­son of in­ter­est in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is SAA chair­per­son Dudu Myeni, who has al­ready been con­tacted for her state­ment,” said a Hawks of­fi­cer close to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “The in­ves­ti­ga­tors will be ob­tain­ing her state­ment soon.” Myeni con­firmed this to City Press yes­ter­day. “I am aware of the al­le­ga­tions against Jonas. I am the one who is al­ways painted as cor­rupt and I will see what will hap­pen now,” she said.

Myeni con­firmed that she would pro­vide the Hawks with a state­ment and would co­op­er­ate with the probe.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion comes amid wide­spread spec­u­la­tion about a Cabi­net reshuf­fle, sparked by the ap­point­ment this week of for­mer Eskom chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer (CEO) Brian Molefe as an ANC MP. Jonas is widely be­lieved to be a tar­get of the reshuf­fle. In her State of Cap­ture re­port, then pub­lic pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela re­vealed how Molefe and Ajay Gupta made 58 phone calls to each other be­tween Au­gust 2015 and March 2016, and that Molefe’s cell­phone records placed him near or at the Gup­tas’ sprawl­ing com­pound in Sax­on­wold in Jo­han­nes­burg.

This was in the lead-up to the fam­ily’s ac­qui­si­tion of the Op­ti­mum coal mine, bought with a R600 mil­lion pre­pay­ment which Eskom ap­proved. Molefe re­signed from Eskom shortly af­ter the re­port’s re­lease.

In the same re­port, Jonas re­vealed that the Gup­tas of­fered him the job of fi­nance min­is­ter and a R600 mil­lion bribe to work with them. The Gup­tas de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

Trea­sury spokesper­son Yolisa Tyantsi de­clined to com­ment on ques­tions sent on Fri­day af­ter­noon. Jonas could not be reached. Hawks spokesper­son Hang­wani Mu­laudzi re­fused to con­firm or deny that Jonas was among their tar­gets, but said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was on­go­ing.

“For the record, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was re­ferred to us af­ter a source blew the lid off se­ri­ous cor­rupt ac­tiv­i­ties at SAA. We in­tend to dig deep to un­cover the truth based on the in­for­ma­tion that was re­ferred to us,” Mu­laudzi said.

“The probe in­volves bil­lions of rands of state funds, and se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions have been lev­elled against se­nior govern­ment of­fi­cials, the Saat and SAA boards, and busi­nesses.”

Mu­laudzi de­clined to re­veal de­tails, say­ing that do­ing so would jeop­ar­dise the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“We will also not re­veal the names of the of­fi­cials or busi­nesses, or their ac­com­plices, un­til we bring those linked to al­leged cor­rup­tion to court.

“We still have a lot of doc­u­men­ta­tion to go through and to take state­ments from all those al­leged to have played a role di­rectly or in­di­rectly.

“We are com­mit­ted to bring­ing to fi­nal­ity the al­leged abuse of state funds and col­lu­sion with­out fear, favour or prej­u­dice us­ing the rule of law at SAA,” he said.

On Fri­day, a spokesper­son for AAR Corp de­nied the al­le­ga­tions, say­ing: “We have earned the trust of some of the world’s largest air­lines, in­clud­ing car­ri­ers in Kenya and Ethiopia. As al­ways, AAR con­ducts its busi­ness with the high­est eth­i­cal and le­gal stan­dards.”

How­ever, from the doc­u­ments City Press has seen, there so far ap­pears to be lit­tle ev­i­dence im­pli­cat­ing Jonas.

The case re­lates to a me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing (MOU) signed by AAR Corp CEO David Storch and Saat’s then CEO, Musa Zwane, in June 2015. Zwane is now the act­ing CEO of SAA.

Ac­cord­ing to an an­nounce­ment at the time, the two par­ties signed the agree­ment to es­tab­lish a joint ven­ture to “re­duce costs and in­crease op­er­a­tional ef­fi­cien­cies of the air­line’s fleet”.

Doc­u­ments be­fore the Hawks al­lege the joint ven­ture was an “ef­fec­tive non­com­pet­i­tive method of by­pass­ing the ten­der which AAR had failed to qual­ify for on two pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions”.

It goes on to state: “The MOU was a mech­a­nism that re­sulted in the can­cel­la­tion of the com­pet­i­tive and quan­tifi­able ten­der process. The Saat board did, in fact, im­me­di­ately af­ter the sign­ing of the MOU, can­cel the ten­der process.

“Anony­mous al­le­ga­tions were made that the un­so­licited bid was mo­ti­vated by a se­nior govern­ment of­fi­cial. This needs to be in­ves­ti­gated.”

This se­nior of­fi­cial, said two se­nior Hawks of­fi­cers, was al­leged to be Jonas. At the time, SAA fell un­der the au­thor­ity of Min­is­ter of Pub­lic En­ter­prises Lynne Brown.

Six months af­ter the MOU was signed, SAA was trans­ferred to Trea­sury af­ter Cabi­net be­came con­cerned about the per­for­mance of state-owned com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing the na­tional air­line, the SA Post Of­fice and Eskom.

Con­tin­ued on page 2

UN­DER FIRE Deputy Min­is­ter of Fi­nance Mce­bisi Jonas

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