Prasa: Contractor 'gratified' project manager with penthouse

2016-08-21 09:00

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A contractor of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) and a lawyer linked to the company are accused of having bought a luxury Durban apartment as "gratification" for a senior Prasa employee who oversaw a multi-billion-rand security contract.

The allegation that Siyangena Technologies, a Pretoria based IT security company, had provided the Prasa employee with a questionable benefit in the form of an upmarket penthouse apartment is contained in Prasa's latest court filings in its ongoing court battle against Siyangena.

Prasa wants the court to set aside contracts worth some R4 billion the company had secured from the state-owned rail transport agency.

A history of suspicious transactions 

News24 last week revealed that payments of roughly R550 million had been made by Siyangena to ANC-linked tycoon Roy Moodley, with no clear indication why such payments were made.

In Prasa board chairman Popo Molefe's latest affidavit it is alleged that one Luvuyo Gantsho, who'd been Prasa's project manager on the Integrated Access Management Systems (ISAMS) contract, enjoyed the use of a luxury apartment that belongs to Pretoria-based lawyer Riaan van der Walt.

The first phase of the ISAMS contract was awarded to Siyangena in 2011.

Van der Walt is the same lawyer who has been linked to several suspicious property transactions involving former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana.

In earlier court papers, Prasa maintained that Montana had "corruptly benefited" from a R11-million Pretoria mansion bought by Van Der Walt but ultimately used by Montana.

Molefe's latest affidavit was filed in the North Gauteng High Court on Friday in reply to Siyangena's earlier answering papers in the ongoing court battle. The affidavit is accompanied by several documents and sworn statements that show how Van der Walt allegedly used a shelf company to purchase the luxury apartment only after Gantsho first started to negotiate with the sellers.

This appears to mimic the way in which Van der Walt had also bought a string of upmarket properties after Montana had first shown interest in them.

"I respectfully submit that the involvement of Grand Tower (Van der Walt's company) in the sale of the unit was an act of concealment by it of Mr Gantsho's beneficial ownership of the unit. I submit that it was the intention of the first respondent (Siyangena) to gratify Mr Gantsho and to curry favour with Mr Gantsho as he was, at that stage, a major decision maker in the ISAMS project," Molefe claims in his affidavit.

The penthouse apartment in question is situated at Durban's Point Waterfront area and was sold to Grand Tower Trade and Invest 04, Van der Walt's company, in 2011, the court papers show.

According to a sworn affidavit by the previous owner of the property, Gantsho in 2011 "expressed an interest in purchasing the unit, as well as the furniture. In total, the value of the transaction was R3 050 000.00." 

The previous owner then goes on to state that "during the course of the negotiation of terms and conditions of the sale of the purchase, I only dealt with Mr Gantsho and understood him to be the purchaser of the unit."

But then Van der Walt entered the scene, according to the court papers.

"It was only at the stage when the agreement was to be reduced to writing that I was informed by Mr Gantsho that the purchaser of the property was not himself, but rather another person. Although Mr Gantsho did not indicate the identity of the purchaser at that stage, he advised me that a Mr Van der Walt would contact me to provide further details," reads the sworn affidavit.

After the property had been transferred to Grand Tower in September 2012, however, Gantsho himself phoned the previous owner to inquire about a painting Gantsho thought would be included in the sale agreement.

His involvement with the penthouse after it had become the property of Van der Walt's company didn't end there.

Gantsho denies link

In a sworn affidavit by the owner of a rental management company that had rented out the apartment on behalf of Van der Walt's shelf company, it is claimed that Van der Walt had on three occasions throughout 2013 and 2014 made a "owner booking" for the apartment, after which he would indicate to the rental management firm that Gantsho "would be collecting the keys for the unit on the arrival date..."

The sworn affidavit is accompanied by three tax invoices in which the owner is listed as "Luyanda" (Gantsho).

Emails between Gantsho and a minister from the Cosmo City Methodist Church, which was found on Prasa's computer server, also show that Gantsho viewed the apartment as his property.

It appears from the emails that the minister had stayed in the apartment over a weekend.

"Visit the following link for information on your accommodation. My apartment is C7-10," Gantsho had written in an email to the minister in June 2012, while the property was in the process of being transferred to its new owner.

A transcript of a conversation Gantsho had with Prasa's lawyers, also included in the court papers, contains his explanation of his connection to the property.

"And then I approached this guy Murphy (the previous owner) I said Craig I'm really interested in this apartment. He said okay... So we went through the whole nitty gritties of it of what comes in the inventory and this and all this. The next thing I heard Alvin (Wilsnach, Siyangena's project manager for the contract) saying you can get the flat," Gantsho had told Prasa's lawyers.

However, Gantsho says the allegation that Van der Walt's company had secretly bought the property for his (Gantsho's) use, is not true.

"I totally deny this allegation and have no connection with the said company," said Gantsho.

He admitted that he'd stayed at the property after Van der Walt had bought it.

"During this period (in 2013) I had a project meeting in Durban which ended late and we had missed our flights. We realised that one of the (Siyangena) project manager(s) had a place at the Sails, and was also in Durban. He said we could use the place but they will be using it the following day, we could get the keys. We did declare this to Prasa," Gantsho said.

Gantsho doesn't deny that he'd arranged for the Methodist minister to stay in the apartment.

"I had an offer from Mr Murphy (the previous owner) to use the apartment until it was transferred to the new owner as a gratification in passing a word about the apartment to my colleagues and eventually having a buyer," Gantsho said.

He'd referred to the property as his own "because I had booked it under my name and it was going to appear as my booking in the register," added Gantsho.

Siyangena's lawyer, Gert van der Merwe, said on Friday he would not be able to respond to queries, as he would be in Dubai until Saturday.

"My client is in all likelihood not even in receipt of a copy of the papers as yet. It is impossible to respond at this point and you seem to ambush my client at every opportunity you get to do so," said Van der Merwe.

He added that Siyangena intended to respond to News24's queries "without delay".

Van Der Walt said he'd only comment after he'd seen the court papers. "Until then each one of the [allegations] are denied," he said.

Read more on:    prasa

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