Former Eskom board member advised Guptas not to pay R2bn Eskom fine
Mark Pamensky, a former board member at Eskom and Gupta-owned Oakbay, advised his Gupta colleagues to negotiate an effective discount of almost R2-billion when they bought mining giant Glencore's Optimum Coal in 2015.
Pamensky, who recently resigned from both Eskom and Oakbay, was intimately involved in brokering the controversial Optimum deal and advised the Guptas to ensure that they did not pay the R2.1-billion fine which had been imposed by Eskom on Glencore.
The fine - levied over a contractual dispute over a coal supply agreement - broke the back of Optimum and forced owners Glencore into a sale, ultimately secured by the Gupta-owned Tegeta.
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Pamensky's activities raise questions about a conflict of interest.
Although he did not sit on Eskom's board tender committee, leaked e-mail correspondence shows he was involved on the side of Tegeta in advising the Guptas against paying the fine.
Payment of the fine would have benefited Eskom, whom he also represented at the time.
The fine was subsequently reduced to R255.4-million once the Guptas took over the mine, with generous terms for paying it off.
"As I'm at the tail-end of the main acquisition of Optimal (Optimum) Coal, please ensure that a condition precedent is that the R2bn claim from Eskom is [that it is] withdrawn or it becomes the seller's problem. I'm happy to get involved to assist with this acquisition and monthly monitoring/analysing of all investments from today. I can meet anyone you require. If you need me in India or Dubai to discuss, I'll meet you there," said Pamensky in an e-mail to Atul Gupta in November 2015. The deal was closed a month later.
Pamensky denied to The Times any wrongdoing but didn't explain why he had advised the Guptas to ensure they did not pay the fine.
"During my term at Eskom, I was not part of the board tender committee, never had any involvement with matters pertaining to the Optimum Coal acquisition, nor did I participate in any procurement in relation to coal.
"Eskom's management team attended to all matters relating to Optimum Coal . I would like to again emphasise the fact that I, at all times, disclosed all perceived conflicts of interest with Eskom," said Pamensky.
Leaked Gupta e-mails reveal that Pamensky got involved in the Optimum Mine deal and even met Clinton Ephron, Glencore's former director in South Africa, as part of negotiating for the Guptas.
"Just for info purposes but Clinton called me now to make sure that I reply back to you that Ivan [Glasenberg, Glencore CEO] is 100% behind the closing of the deal and that Glencor (sic) are not behind these press statements. I don't believe him about the press but do believe him about the fact the closing the deal is important to Glencor. The fact is that Eskom will not deal with Glencore and the business practitioner mentioned same to me. Clinton was really concerned that I relay the message and ensure the deal closes. These guys are not to be trusted in any way, form or shape but I have to pass on the message," wrote Pamensky to Gupta, illustrating his close involvement in the details of the deal.
Ephron declined to comment yesterday and Glencore said it was not able to immediately respond.
The Guptas were also helped by Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane when he facilitated the negotiations with Glencore in Zurich in November and December 2015.
- This article's headline has been amended to correct an earlier inaccuracy