Questions asked about why Anoj Singh was in Dubai at same time as the Guptas and associates

Travel Excellence told the Zondo inquiry on Tuesday, through one of its agents Sameera Sooliman, that it was Essa who financed Singh's many trips to the United Arab Emirates

13 April 2021 - 20:46
Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa allegedly was making it rain for former Eskom and Transnet CFO Anoj Singh in 2014 and 2015, paying for his nearly 10 trips to Dubai. Singh denies it. File photo
Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa allegedly was making it rain for former Eskom and Transnet CFO Anoj Singh in 2014 and 2015, paying for his nearly 10 trips to Dubai. Singh denies it. File photo
Image: Supplied

During 2014 and 2015, Anoj Singh, the then Transnet and Eskom finance boss respectively, was a frequent visitor to Dubai, and his trips somehow coincided with those of the Gupta family and their associates to the same destination.

And a travel agency used by Gupta foot soldier Salim Essa was the same one Singh used.

Travel Excellence told the Zondo inquiry on Tuesday, through one of its agents Sameera Sooliman, that it was Essa who financed Singh's many trips to the United Arab Emirates.

Singh denied this, saying he in fact paid from his pocket for the visits — some of which he claimed were not destined for Dubai as he would have been transiting through to another country.

The commission on Tuesday also read into the record claims by Sooliman that several associates of the Guptas — business and political — were also in Dubai on some of the occasions that Singh would have been there.

One of these occasions was December 2015, when Singh spend 10 days in Dubai — his longest stay in the city. During this time a long list of Gupta family members and several powerful SA politicians were also there.

It is fabrication in terms of the documents we have now seen
Anoj Singh

Among those that were in Dubai were two of former president Jacob Zuma's sons, Duduzane and Edward, as well as two sons of now ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, Thato and Tshepiso. Politicians who were also in Dubai included current state security minister Ayanda Dlodlo, former ministers Tokyo Sexwale and Des Van Rooyen, and Ekurhuleni city manager Imogen Mashazi.

For Singh, the trip cost R140,000, which the travel agency charged to Essa's account.

According to Sooliman, Singh had called the agency informing them that a driver would drop at their offices hard cash to settle the invoice — which indeed happened.

But Singh denied that Essa paid for his trip and distanced himself from meeting the Gupta family, Zuma and Magashule's sons, and the other politicians who were also in Dubai.

“The books and account of Travel Excellence is not exactly 100%, which may lead one to believe that it is fabrication in terms of the documents we have now seen,” said Singh.

“If I had to give the benefit of the doubt to Miss Sooliman, I would say this is just very bad accounting and record-keeping and admin. If that is the case, on her version she allocated me to Mr Essa's account, then she issued receipts with refence to Mr Essa. But on the extreme side you could say that given these discrepancies I have pointed out, it could be a fabrication.”

Singh, however, conceded that the trips, all private and social in nature,  that were detailed by Sooliman happened and that the amounts were mostly correct bar the claim that it was Essa who paid.

The first trip with Travel Excellence that Singh undertook to Dubai was a flight back home from Dubai on June 8 2014.

For this trip, Essa paid to the agency R9,200 towards Singh's costs, claims Sooliman.

“Mr Chair, I have never received this invoice. And as you can see it actually says ticket void. There was never a travel,” said Singh in his defence.

That trip was followed by another two months later at a cost of R60,000.

You were frequenting Dubai in 2014 and 2015 Mr Singh
DCJ Raymond Zondo

According to Sooliman, Essa paid for this invoice by transferring the amount to her personal account and she passed it over to the company account.

Singh disputed this, saying he paid for himself, albeit he cannot produce proof of payment for this and all the other trips.

On November 6 the same year Singh was back in Dubai, and returned to Jozi three days later. The bill for this vacation stood at R55,000 which was settled through hard cash dropped at Travel Excellence by a driver sent by Singh, Sooliman's affidavit reveals.

Singh confirmed to have been in Dubai during the said dates but claims he footed the bill himself. But once again, no proof of payment was produced for either hard cash or electronic transfer.

Another three months later, in February 2015, Singh touched down in Dubai for a three-day stay setting him or Essa back R33,000. Singh confirmed the trip but claimed “discrepancies in the invoice (provided to the commission by Sooliman).

Commission chairperson Raymond Zondo, at this point, could not help but note that “you were frequenting Dubai in 2014 and 2015, Mr Singh” to which he responded with a chuckle.

Singh's last three trips to Dubai followed in June and December 2015 before the final one in February 2017 whose invoice jointly with one for Rajesh Gupta was R134,000.

To settle this one, said Sooliman, another Gupta lieutenant, Ashu Chawla, phoned the agency informing them that a driver from Gupta-owned Sahara computers would drop cash off at their offices — which did take place, albeit an amount of R170,000 was paid to settle some historical debt with the balance.

Singh is due to return to the Zondo commission at a date yet to be determined to deal with his role in Eskom's scandalous granting of a R1.6bn guarantee and a R550m prepayment to Gupta-owned Tegeta.

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