Paul O’Sullivan is a forensic investigator who has played a leading role in pursuing the corrupt and captured who were allowed to flourish under former president Jacob Zuma. He was harassed, and even tortured, as he shook out some deadly truths about how the powerful in business and politics have feathered their own nests. In an interview with BizNews Radio founder Alec Hogg, O’Sullivan reveals that South Africa’s electricity woes are directly linked to corruption. Eskom bosses deliberately allowed coal supplies to run down so that they could activate contracts that would make it easier to access funds. That, in turn, means rolling blackouts were the result of graft. O’Sullivan says it will take decades to investigate and prosecute Eskom bosses for every crime they have committed. Instead, he advocates pressing ahead with a few charges against key players. – Jackie Cameron
A BEE shareholder has lifted the lid on how he was offered a substantial stake in a company – for doing nothing.
In exchange, Eskom bosses received millions, with one receiving more than R20m.
The corrupt manager, Magope France Hlakudi, granted contracts worth billions to Portuguese citizen Antonio Trindade – banking bribes worth tens of millions for his imaginatively designed “translation” services, Paul O’Sullivan of Forensics for Justice told BizNews Radio’s Alec Hogg.
That senior employee – three or four levels below Gupta pal Brian Molefe – had a “level of authority” that enabled him and his team to spend up to R750m without having to get board approval.
Fraudulent VAT schemes, using fake VAT numbers, were set up to funnel money from Eskom to its senior employees, including a procurement executive.
Transactions were deliberately convoluted to allow funds to flow to corrupt individuals – at the same time contributing to the increase in the price of electricity.
O’Sullivan said a company was set up to “avail of a rather sizeable project at Eskom”.
“When I say sizeable we’re talking in the billions of rand. And the arrangement he entered into with the company was that he would become a 30 percent shareholder,” said the anti-graft sleuth.
“They didn’t really have to do anything. And I think you really have to be suspicious if you don’t have to do anything but your name is there and you signed for the loans and so on and so forth.
“We looked into it and we’ve uncovered a massive fraud and corruption, and payments to senior managers at Eskom.
“There was a steady deterioration in the relationship, which started probably last year and it reached a point where there were unfriendly letters going backwards and forwards. And he approached us and he said he suspected that there was hanky panky going on,” continued O’Sullivan.
“We managed to go and speak to another person who is now a whistleblower. They brought us a whole lot of documentation which clearly shows that this company in order to gain these lucrative contracts from Eskom paid millions and millions of rands to a senior Eskom employee . So they weren’t very smart about it they left quite a nice audit trail.”
O’Sullivan said the point he makes is that when you’ve got bad leadership in any company or the leadership is distracted doing its own thing corruption can thrive.
The forensic investigator recapped how senior executives of Eskom prior to Brian Molefe were all turfed out, paving the way for Molefe and friends to “rape” Eskom.
“We hear stories like coal being dug up from mine A, which happens to be adjacent to Power Station A, coal being dug up from mine B which happens to be adjacent to Power Station B and the coal from mine B is transported by road to power station A and the coal from mine A is transported to Power Station B because the managers can make more money on the kickbacks.
“So that kind of massive cost incurrence that was taking place – all it did was increase the cost of of electricity.”
It led to a situation, said O’Sullivan, in which managers deliberately allowed the stockpiles of coal to go down so that they could use emergency purchasing procedures and bypass normal procurement regulations and spend billions and billions – ultimately to feather their own nests.
The super-sleuth noted that taking the culprits to court could tie law-enforcers up for more than a decade.
“We’ve said: look here, there’s some low hanging fruit. There’s copies of invoices with copies of the bank statements. There’s the payment vouchers, the money was paid,” he said.