'There is no link' - Ramaphosa campaign law firm dismisses Trillian, Gupta claims

The Sandton-based law firm that provided a trust account which was used to house funds for President Cyril Ramaphosa's ANC presidential election campaign last year has vehemently denied claims of Gupta/Trillian links to one of its directors.

This is in response to the DA, which on Tuesday released a statement highlighting that a director of Edelstein Farber Grobler (EFG), Jeffrey Afriat, was previously a director of Trillian Capital Partners (TCP).

The DA claimed that the trust account was a "slush fund".

EFG denied the DA's claims and stated that it intends suing DA leader Mmusi Maimane over the "defamatory statements and innuendos" in the published statement.

Independently obtained company records confirm that Afriat was a director of TCP between March and November 2016.

But it has since emerged that Afriat was a non-executive director of TCP and further, played no role in the affairs of TCP.

Passing mention in state capture report

In the wake of a scandal surrounding a R500 000 donation to Ramaphosa's campaign by Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson, News24 confirmed that a trust account at EFG was used to collect Ramaphosa's campaign funds.

ALSO READ: Ramaphosa corrects his National Assembly replay on his son's links to Bosasa

TCP is a Gupta-linked financial advisory firm, subsidiaries of which billed Eskom hundreds of millions for work it conducted in conjunction with global advisory firm McKinsey as part of a billion-rand contract.

In total, TCP invoiced Eskom R600m for what was later determined to be an unlawful contract.

McKinsey has since paid back the funds while TCP has not.

TCP was previously revealed to be linked to the Gupta's state capture project and, according to former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's report on state capture, contributed funds toward the Gupta's R2bn purchase of Optimum coal mine from Glencore in early 2016.

Afriat is mentioned in Madonsela's report as a result of his directorship of TCP.

EFG and Afriat, in response to questions from News24, on Monday dismissed any notion of a link between funds received from donors in the "EFG2" trust account in respect of Ramaphosa's presidential campaign and his association with TCP, despite the DA's contention that there is.

The firm also said that Afriat had no involvement whatsoever in the administration of the "EFG2" trust account.

'There is absolutely no association'

According to Afriat, he was a non-executive director of TCP from March to November 2016.  Company records also reflect this time period.

During this period and for a period of approximately 13 years beforehand, he practised as an attorney for his own account, Afriat said.

He was appointed a director of EFG in December 2016 shortly before his law firm and EFG Incorporated merged in January 2017.

"Mr Afriat rendered professional legal services (in his capacity as a practicing attorney) to TCP and affiliated companies for which he charged in ordinary course of business," EFG said in its response to News24.

"[He] played no role in the affairs of TCP and never attended any board meetings.  Afriat rendered services as an attorney to TCP on an ad hoc basis . At no stage was he an employee or a shareholder of TCP."

According to Afriat he "never had any personal relationships with or affiliation to any of the directors, shareholders and/or employees at TCP (nor with any of the Guptas or Gupta lieutenants)".

"There is absolutely no association or nexus whatsoever in respect of the funds received in trust in respect of the election campaign and Afriat's former association with TCP.  The DA, by attempting to link the two issues, are trying to draw an inference of bribery and corruption where one does not exist," Afriat added. 

ALSO READ: Bosasa CEO's 'hidden' R500k to Ramaphosa deconstructed

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