Manyi trusts there’s nothing unlawful with Gupta company he bought

29 August 2017 - 16:14 By Graeme Hosken And Genevieve Quintal
Former government spin doctor Mzwanele Manyi's company, Lodidox, became the surprise new owner of The New Age newspaper and the ANN7 TV channel.
Former government spin doctor Mzwanele Manyi's company, Lodidox, became the surprise new owner of The New Age newspaper and the ANN7 TV channel.
Image: Moeletsi Mabe

The new owner of the Gupta’s Infinity Media‚ Mzwanele Manyi‚ says the Financial Intelligence Centre report showing suspicious money transactions involving the business he has bought is of no concern for him.

“I am comfortable‚ with a recent court ruling [Gordhan vs Oakbay] which threw that report out‚ that everything is above board with the company I have bought‚” said Manyi.

Last week Oakbay Investments announced its withdrawal from its media interests‚ selling its shareholding in Infinity Media and TNA to Lodidox‚ owned by Manyi and management‚ for a combined R450-million.

In August 2016‚ the FIC listed 72 suspicious transactions from Gupta-linked bank accounts.

Manyi said once the FIC report was struck out by the High Court in Pretoria during former finance minister Pravin Gordhan’s case against Oakbay Investments‚ he was “comfortable” with his decision to purchase the company.

“It does not concern me now. If there was any unlawfulness the courts would have said so. They gave no value to the FIC report. I trust our country's courts in their judgments.

“The only people who have ever convicted the Guptas are the media and the public and that's only ever been done on a litany of allegations and no prima facie evidence.”

He said people needed to understand that the FIC merely raised suspicions‚ which required explanations.

“Their suspicions do not necessarily mean that transactions are irregular or unlawful. To say so without evidence or due diligence being conducted is wrong.”

But UCT criminologist Simon Howell said the FIC was solid in their investigations and did not make a noise about a transaction unless it was sound for them to do so.

He said if the FIC raised suspicions then the security cluster took them very seriously‚ “as should the public”.

Gordhan approached the court in 2016 in a bid to get a declaratory order stating that he‚ as finance minister‚ could not interfere in the relationship between banks and their private clients.

The Guptas had sought his assistance when the country's four big banks shut their accounts. The court dismissed Gordhan’s application pointing out that the law was clear on the fact that no member of the national executive could intervene and said it did not want to be pulled into political matters.

The FIC report‚ which was attached to Gordhan’s application‚ was also struck out because it was deemed irrelevant to the proceedings.

Financial documents‚ including cross border foreign exchange transactions reports and the FIC report‚ seen by TimesLIVE and BusinessLIVE‚ gives insight into how the Guptas and their business associates moved money.

It is the shifting of money which raised the FIC and other financial reporting organisations suspicions.

In the FIC report four suspicious transactions were flagged involving Infinity Media and TNA. These included: - Multiple transactions on March 31 2016 involving TNA Media and Atul Gupta; - Suspicious transactions on 7 April 2016 between Infinity Media‚ Atul Gupta and Varun Gupta totalling R24.1-million; - A suspicious transaction on 8 April 2016 between Infinity Media‚ Atul Gupta and Varun Gupta totalling R6.9-million‚ and; - Suspicious transactions on 13 April 2016 between TNA Media and Atul Gupta totalling R7.9-million.

In another document containing information on suspicious cross-border foreign exchange transactions between the Guptas‚ their associates and their linked businesses‚ are two transactions where money was transferred to and from Essel Media.

Essel Media Group was ostensibly Infinity Media's foreign investor and‚ along with Oakbay Investments‚ held a 35% stake in the company.

The first allegedly suspicious cross-border foreign exchange transaction was for a R10-million payment from Oakbay investments to Essel Media on 2 March 2016. The second‚ a R9.9-million payment for shares from Essel Media to Infinity Media‚ in March 2013.

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