R300,000 bail granted in case against Eskom bosses accused of Kusile fraud

19 December 2019 - 16:38
By Naledi Shange and CLAUDI MAILOVICH
Mangope France Hlakudi, Antonio Jose Da Costa Trindade, Abram Abei Masango and Maphoko Hudson Kgomoeswana appear at the Johannesburg magistrate's court for their formal bail application on December 19 2019.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times Mangope France Hlakudi, Antonio Jose Da Costa Trindade, Abram Abei Masango and Maphoko Hudson Kgomoeswana appear at the Johannesburg magistrate's court for their formal bail application on December 19 2019.

Two former Eskom senior executives, Abram Masango and France Hlakudi, appeared in court on Thursday in relation to a R745m fraud case.

They appeared alongside Tubular Construction CEO Tony Trindade and Mike Lomas, the company’s former chairperson.

The case relates to alleged wrongdoing regarding the Kusile power station construction project.

The four were granted bail of R300,000 each. They will be released only after they post the bail amount.

They were arrested in the early morning in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Gauteng by the police’s elite investigating unit, the Hawks, and the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) investigating directorate. One of the accused is still at large.

Magistrate Albertus Roux said on Thursday that the crimes the four are accused of were not only against the complainants, but against the people of SA. He did not differentiate between bail amounts for the accused, who also appeared on behalf of multiple businesses as it is alleged they all benefited from the alleged crime.

The matter was postponed to May 25 at the specialised commercial crime court, sitting in Palm Ridge.

Masango, former group capital CEO, and Hlakudi, who was the contracts manager for Kusile, both left Eskom under a cloud — facing allegations that they had irregularly received millions of rand in kickbacks linked to the illegal awarding of contracts in the building of the power plant.

Two months ago, the Sunday Times reported that Masango's name had featured prominently in an investigation by law firm Bowman into corruption and fraud at the power utility. Masango, who has always denied wrongdoing, told the paper that he was shocked to hear he was still being investigated.

“I left Eskom two years ago. I’m shocked that they are only investigating me now. No-one even called me,” he said.

Hlakudi's name  featured prominently in the 2017 disciplinary hearing of former Eskom CEO Matshela Koko. Koko had handed in a document alleging Hlakudi had received a bribe of R61m from Tubular Construction Projects, an Eskom contractor.

The money was paid into the bank account of Hlakudi Translation & Interpretation and from there retainers were paid to some Eskom employees, he claimed.

Hlakudi had in November 2017 handed in his resignation letter, in which he disputed the grounds for his suspension. He denied the allegations against him that he had accepted a multimillion-rand bribe to divert tenders at Kusile.

Both Masango and Hlakudi were arrested on Thursday in a joint operation by the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority. They were arrested alongside two business directors and representatives of seven companies.

Hawks spokesperson Brig Hangwani Mulaudzi said all the accused were allegedly linked to fraudulent contracts and corruption amounting to R745m around the construction of the mega coal-fired Kusile power station.

Mulaudzi said the arrests were made in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Gauteng — and were linked specifically to an incident in June 2015 when an allegedly fraudulent contract was submitted by the Kusile project management team to Eskom’s procurement committee.

The project management team had sought to negotiate and conclude the contract with a particular company.

“The contract was approved for R745m to build two air-cooled condenser (ACC) units at Kusile power station. It is alleged that from February 2015 to July 2017, the appointed companies, other related entities and individuals shared about R30m among themselves,” said Mulaudzi in a statement.

“Investigations began when suspicions were raised into the construction of two large projects at Medupi and Kusile power stations. This revealed that there was apparent gross manipulation of contractual agreements between contractors, Eskom employees and third parties at Kusile power station,” Mulaudzi added.