A former Trillian employee was told that the company’s CEO‚ Eric Wood‚ made huge profits by knowing beforehand that Nhlanhla Nene would be sacked as finance minister in December 2015.
Mosilo Mothepu told Parliament’s public enterprises committee on Tuesday that Wood allegedly knew as far back as October of that year that Nene would be fired and replaced by Des van Rooyen. The committee is probing the capture of Eskom and other parastatals.
Zuma’s decision to sack Nene in 2015 sent the rand and markets into a tailspin. Van Rooyen was swiftly replaced by Pravin Gordhan‚ who was fired by Zuma earlier in 2017.
“On Nenegate‚ I was told but it’s unconfirmed‚ that Wood and his people traded on the pre knowledge [that Nene would be fired]. In November‚ Wood bought US dollars before the change of Minister.
“He [Wood] knew that the announcement would affect the rand … when our investments and the rand was crashing he reverse traded and made hundreds of millions of rand‚” said Mothepu.
She said she was also told of a plan on how Gupta ally Mohamed Bobat would use his proximity to Van Rooyen to channel work and lucrative contracts from Treasury and state-owned entities to Trillian.
Wood and Bobat had hired a PR firm to write speeches for Van Rooyen.
“Eric started working on a speech [for Van Rooyen]….but they ended up writing one for Cogta [Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs‚ after Van Rooyen was moved to that department a few days later]‚” said Mothepu.
Mothepu was financial advisory CEO at Trillian and left the company in 2016. She provided evidence to the Public Protector‚ which was cited in her State of Capture report.
Mothepu also provided a statement to Geoff Budlender SC for his investigation into Trillian.
In her testimony in Parliament‚ Mothepu detailed how Trillian made millions of rand from state-owned entities‚ including Eskom‚ Transnet‚ SA Express and Denel.
She said often Trillian was paid for work it did not do and without contracts in place. The company used its political connections to win lucrative deals.
Mothepu stated that suspended Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh had an “improper relationship” with Wood.
“While we were putting together proposals Singh would give us Eskom information … to boost our proposals … he would give us information on a memory stick‚ so that [Trillian and McKinsey] would have insider information that other people would not have.”
The information‚ which included Eskom’s turnaround strategy‚ corporate plan‚ minutes of board meetings‚ and treasury policies‚ gave Trillian an edge over rival consultancy firms.
Earlier in October‚ Eskom said it had asked global consultancy McKinsey to return “unlawful” payments of about R1bn and Trillian R564m. Trillian was the purported supply development partner of McKinsey in an agreement it had to provide services to Eskom.
“The interim findings from Eskom investigations into the circumstances surrounding payments made to both the companies point to certain decisions by Eskom‚ and resultant payments‚ as being unlawful. It is in the public interest to do everything we can as Eskom to claw back all the fees which were unlawfully paid‚” Eskom said at the time.
In October‚ the South African Federation of Trade Unions said that it had laid charges against Trillian and its directors for “criminal wrongdoing in its dealings with Eskom and Transnet‚ including committing acts of fraud‚ theft‚ corruption and money-laundering”.
The inquiry continues