Guptas could see secret contracts

12 July 2017 - 06:24
Atul Gupta at his home in Saxonwold in Johannesburg. File photo
Image: KEVIN SUTHERLAND Atul Gupta at his home in Saxonwold in Johannesburg. File photo

The Guptas had access to a plethora of sensitive and confidential financial contracts between multinational software vendor SAP and state-owned companies, The Times can reveal.

But yesterday the company denied it had paid millions as a "kickback" to a Gupta-owned business.

Leaked e-mails seen by The Times further shed light on the German-based SAP and the Gupta family's business activities. But SAP defended itself against accusations of making irregular payments to a Gupta-owned company to help secure a R100-million contract with Transnet.

SAP's co-founder is the respected billionaire Hasso Platner, who maintains strong ties with South Africa and owns the Fancourt Golf Estate in the Western Cape.

The leaked e-mails also show the Guptas had access to far more SAP-related information.

These included inside information on another deal between SAP and Transnet relating to projects, including one described as "maritime intelligence".

A draft contract the Guptas laid their hands on relates to details of a R130-million SAP management tool for Eskom. The tool is used to track documentation such as purchase orders, invoices and payments.

They also had access to information on a bid by SAP to provide commercial software for use in the South African public service.

It is not clear in all cases how they obtained this information but there is correspondence between senior SAP South Africa executives and their counterparts in Gupta-owned Sahara Systems.

All the e-mails between SAP and state-owned companies were forwarded to the Guptas via their lieutenants, Salim Essa and Ashua Chawla.

Last night SAP Africa spokesman Ansophie Strydom said the company would issue a detailed statement today in response to The Times's inquiries.

Earlier yesterday it said there was nothing untoward in the millions it paid to Gupta-owned CAD House, partly owned by President Jacob Zuma's son, Duduzane, for a Transnet deal, describing it as a normal "sales commission".

Details of the payment were revealed by AmaBhungane and Scorpio investigative journalism teams.

But even as SAP downplayed its association with Gupta businesses, The Times can reveal two of the most senior SAP South Africa executives were on the family's 2014 Christmas gift list and were to each receive a US$500 bottle of whisky.

One of them also cracked the nod for an invitation to a number of Gupta company-run events, according to the leaked e-mails.

SAP also provides services to at least one of the Guptas' businesses, VR Laser.

The leaked e-mails show that in March 2015 there were confidential meetings with various Sahara company executives at which they discussed, among others, a business rescue plan for CAD House.

It is not known why SAP entered into an agreement with the company to help secure the Transnet deal just months later, when it was still facing business rescue.

Professor Jannie Rossouw of Wits School of Economics said having insight into SAP's systems for outsiders would be like striking gold. "In economic terms this allows one to do 'front running' ... it comes down to insider trading."

He said access to SAP systems in state-owned entities would allow someone to potentially make huge profits off government tenders.

"You can see how a deal is being shaped and set yourself up as the ideal government partner, whereas you have no ideas on the projects."

The Guptas had not responded to questions at the time of going to print.