Jessie Duarte's son, ex in kickback scandal

Relatives of ANC leader named as firm comes clean

05 May 2019 - 00:05
ANC top-six member Jessie Duarte.
Image: Masi Losi ANC top-six member Jessie Duarte.

A company that scored tenders worth millions of rands from state-owned enterprises diverted money meant to fund supplier development programmes to ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte's family members in return for them assisting it to snatch more state business.

Combined Private Investigations (CPI), a company that was previously found to have spied on journalists and politicians, among them Peter Bruce, Rob Rose and Trevor Manuel, has told law-enforcement agencies that it paid more than R40m in two years to a group led by Gupta associate Salim Essa. The group included Malcolm Mabaso (a former adviser to former minister of mineral resources Mosebenzi Zwane), Duarte's son Yusha and her ex-husband John Duarte.

The monies were not paid to them directly but to two Gupta-linked companies - Homix and Chivita - and two other companies, Forsure and Medjoul.

CPI had contracts with Eskom and Transnet.

The company said it agreed to use supplier development funds to pay a R1.4m monthly retainer to this group after Essa promised this would ensure the company won more contracts.

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According to a letter written by CPI's lawyers, Arthur Channon Attorneys, Essa introduced CPI to a company called Chivita Trading in 2012.

Essa told CPI he was "well-connected and has the ability to introduce [CPI] to potential clients to conduct business with in the future".

John and Yusha Duarte were Essa's business associates. The Duartes, according to CPI, were closely connected to Mabaso.

The group persuaded CPI to enter into a business deal for consulting services.

"The rationale behind the consulting services emanated from our client's obligation and responsibility to pay a certain percentage of the income or revenue it generated by virtue of the agreements or contracts it entered into and concluded between itself and various of its clients," the letter states.

CPI made payments totalling R15m to Chivita between 2013 and 2014, for the benefit of the Duartes, Essa and Mabaso.

Payments were channelled from Chivita to a company called Homix in May 2014.

Homix billed CPI for the "management of information and logistic support services" on a month-to-month basis.

For this Homix was paid a combined fee of R13m between June 2014 and May 2015. Another company, Forsure Consultants, billed CPI for three months to the tune of close to R5m.

Forsure was replaced by Medjoul from August 2015 until June 2016. CPI paid R11m in that period.

Throughout all the changes, from Chivita to Homix, then Forsure and Medjoul, the beneficiaries remained the Duartes, Essa and Mabaso.

Jessie Duarte denied any knowledge of her family's involvement in the scheme, saying her son and ex-husband should answer for themselves.

"I cannot answer questions about my son or anyone's company activities, you have to ask the people involved to answer for themselves. I do not know," she said.

John Duarte declined to comment, saying: "I do not talk to the Sunday Times thank you very much, bye." Yusha Duarte and Mabaso could not be reached for comment.

In the letter, CPI says none of the four companies provided supporting documents to prove their legitimacy when asked to.

They also failed to provide CPI with company registration documents, the identity documents of directors, proof of VAT registration, a broad-based BEE certificate and tax clearance.

"Our client laboured under the bona fide impression that it conducted business at arm's length with the team which complied with all the legal requirements, with specific emphasis on the empowerment of previously disadvantaged individuals or groups," CPI's lawyers write.

CPI said it terminated its relations with the Duartes, Essa and Mabaso upon learning of their ties to the Gupta family, and stopped making payments in 2016.