Gupta fixer's R232m 'criminal conspiracy' at the heart of state capture

Kuben Moodley said not to have done any work but got millions in 'conspiracy'

05 January 2020 - 00:05 By JEFF WICKS
Kuben Moodley and Jacob Zuma, then still president.
Kuben Moodley and Jacob Zuma, then still president.
Image: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images

R232m for an "introduction".

That's what Gupta fixer Kuben Moodley invoiced for, allegedly without doing any work.

The head of the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA's) Investigating Directorate, Hermione Cronje, claims in an affidavit that payments made by Regiments Capital to Moodley's company were part of a "criminal conspiracy" at the heart of state capture.

Cronje alleges the company did no work for its fees, the vast extent of which the Sunday Times is reporting today. Moodley's role as an alleged fixer for the Guptas is also taking centre stage in an investigation into money laundering and corruption.

Payments totalling R210m were made to Moodley's company, Albatime, in less than a year. Albatime, little more than an office in Rivonia without a website, was found by former public protector Thuli Madonsela to have helped the Guptas buy the Optimum coal mine.

Moodley's company sent at least 44 invoices to Regiments Capital for work ostensibly done for Transnet, from which Regiments unlawfully scored hundreds of millions of rands.

The invoices are contained in evidence before the state capture commision and in the #TrillianLeaks, 300,000 e-mails obtained by the Sunday Times.

On the invoices, Moodley includes only vague codes, mostly prefixed by the letters TRX (for Transnet) and he provides no explanations of what the payments were for and no breakdowns of what work was done.

They were sent to the then-Regiments boss Eric Wood, and included the "project name", "Transnet Capital Projects".

In November, the high court in Johannesburg ordered R1.1bn of assets belonging to Regiments, its remaining two directors, Niven Pillay and Litha Nyhonyha, and Wood, their former partner, be restrained by a court-appointed curator in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

Moodley - an adviser to Gupta ally and former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane - was furious when contacted by the Sunday Times two weeks ago.

"You f***ing write s***! I have seen what you write ... You mother******s are Stratcom and you are part of a cabal," he fumed.

He later apologised, denied any wrongdoing and added: "The Zondo commission is investigating state capture and the questions you put to me verbally fall within the ambit of the commission. That is the right forum for me to address the questions and not to you," he said.

On Thursday, questions were sent to Moodley's lawyer, who asked to respond after his office reopened in more than a week.

Moodley was instrumental in having Regiments Capital appointed as international consultancy firm McKinsey's local partner

"The basis of the evidence upon which you rely is factually incorrect ... and will undoubtedly damage my client's good name and reputation and will most definitely be met with litigation. Be warned accordingly," the lawyer said.

In her affidavit, filed in November in support of the application to provisionally seize assets belonging to Regiments and its directors, Cronje alleges that the payments to Moodley were in return for an introduction into what would become the "criminal conspiracy".

Along with Gupta lieutenant and state capture architect Salim Essa, now living in Dubai along with the Gupta brothers, Moodley was instrumental in having Regiments Capital appointed as international consultancy firm McKinsey's local partner.

"Neither [Salim] Essa nor Moodley would render any service beyond introducing Regiments Capital to McKinsey and Transnet," Cronje's affidavit states.

Moodley introduced Essa to Regiments' directors in 2012, a meeting that would herald a state-contract bonanza for the company.

In return, Regiments would eventually pay up to 55% of its fees to Moodley and Essa, a deal Cronje describes as the bedrock of a corruption and money-laundering scheme.

While Essa and the Gupta brothers remain out of reach, focus is now turning to the likes of 49-year-old Moodley, a low-key Durban businessman.

Moodley submitted invoices for R232,082,223 between March 2014 and April 2016, including:

• R6,550,818 in 15 invoices for "TRX Coal", understood by former Trillian employees and state-capture investigators to relate to a project handed to McKinsey and Regiments to improve efficiency and traffic on the Transnet coal lines;

• R5,195,278 in 17 invoices for the "NMPP", Moodley's cut of a contract that oversaw the building of Transnet's new multi-product pipeline project;

• R773,329 in five invoices under the line item "Kumba IO", believed to be fees for Albatime's "role" in renegotiating tariffs with mining giant Kumba Iron Ore; and

• R1,984,662 in six invoices for "GFB", referring to Transnet's freight business.

Moodley's largest single invoice, dated June 2015, was for R141.93m including VAT for a "project" named "CDB".

The project related to the $2.5bn (R36bn) Chinese Development Bank and other loans entered into to pay for Transnet's corruption-riddled tender for 1,064 locomotives.

Transnet said in December that it would approach the courts to have a number of those contracts declared unlawful and set aside.

Transnet will finish paying off the overpriced Chinese Development Bank loan only in 2030, amaBhungane reported.

Moodley submitted invoices for R232,082,223 between March 2014 and April 2016

In June 2015, Moodley sent a terse e-mail to a Regiments employee, instructing that the bill for R141.93m be paid into an account held at the Indian Bank of Baroda, the preferred bank of the Gupta family, instead of his usual Absa Wealth account.

But a little over a week later, after Regiments staff made a payment plan for the hefty invoice, amaBhungane reported, Moodley resubmitted it.

The new invoice, reflecting the exact amount and invoice number, replaced CDB with the line item "IT Sales and Support", which he claimed Albatime had provided to Regiments for two years.

What happened next raises questions about how much Moodley benefited from his role in the Gupta state-capture project.

In her affidavit, Cronje states that once Regiments had paid Moodley's R141.93m invoice, the bulk of this money was paid to the Guptas.

The #GuptaLeaks contains an invoice for R122m that the family's Sahara Computers sent to Moodley a week before he forwarded his amended invoice. Sahara's invoice was also for two years' worth of "IT Services Support".

It is unclear whether Moodley paid the VAT he had invoiced.

A spokesperson for the South African Revenue Service, Sandile Memela, refused to comment, saying that tax affairs were private.

Testifying at the state capture commission last year, Transnet acting CEO Mohammed Mahomedy said Regiments' services included carrying out loan swaps from floating interest rates to fixed interest rates, which Transnet's treasury could easily have handled.

This was another item for which Moodley appears to have invoiced - for R42m on December 7 2015 - with the line item "CPI currency swops".

In her affidavit, Cronje says: "Neither Essa nor Moodley provided any services except to facilitate the conclusion of Regiments' appointment to the McKinsey contract. The clear inference is that there was no lawful basis for the payments made to them or to the companies nominated by them."

Moodley, however, insists that Wood never paid him.

"Regiments has now settled all monies earned at Transnet. I cannot understand why you are writing an article unless it's about all companies that have settled with SOEs, like McKinsey," he said.

The Sunday Times reported in the first of the #TrillianLeaks investigations that Wood owned more assets than the NPA had been aware of - including luxury homes, a helicopter and a game farm. Wood now stands to have these assets restrained as well.

The NPA did not respond to requests for comment.

In July last year, Moodley went to court after lawyers for the Zondo commission investigators issued a search and seizure warrant for his safety deposit boxes at Knox Titanium Vaults, based in Houghton, Johannesburg.

Moodley had three vaults, and the state capture commission's investigators wanted to see the documents these vaults contained.

When the vault company barred him access, Moodley said in court papers that he relied on the money in the vaults for his day-to-day expenses because his accounts at Absa and Nedbank had been closed.

Approached for comment on what services Moodley provided, Transnet said the company was "working with investigators of the Zondo commission and other law enforcement agencies in providing information relating to payments made to other identified companies".


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