State Capture: SAA deal 'project director' never heard of firm he was meant to represent

The man whose name was given as one of two senior project directors in a consortium that won a SAA tender never heard of the company he was supposed to be working for, the state capture inquiry has heard. 

A joint venture comprising BnP Capital and In Line Trading 10 won a tender to advise the flag carrier on a debt funding project in early 2016. This deal that was later upscaled to sourcing R15bn in funds for the cash-strapped airline.  

The shocking revelation came as the commission on Friday continued to probe tenders between the consortium and SAA. These tenders were cancelled after a whistle-blower leaked documents to the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse.

BnP Capital, which describes itself as a financial advisory firm, had partnered with In Line Trading 10 in February 2016 in a bid to advise the flag carrier on a debt funding project. It won the tender, and was later awarded a far larger contract to source R15bn in much-needed funds for the national carrier. For this contract, which was not put to tender, it was set to earn R256m in advisory fees. 

But a man described in bid documents as a "senior project director" for the joint venture has stated in a sworn affidavit he never heard of BnP Capital until the news made headlines in August 2016. 

The joint bid document of BnP Capital and In Line Trading 10 states that Brandon King would play the role of "senior project director" under lead project director Daniel Mahlangu. Fin24 has a copy of the bid document.

In a sworn affidavit, which Fin24 has a copy of, King has stated he never heard of BnP Capital until August 2016 when the consortium had already been awarded the bid.

This was around the time when news of the deal's cancellation made it into the media.

According to his affidavit, King had already resigned as a director of the company by the time his name was used in the bid documents. The company In Line Trading 10, according to evidence leader advocate Kate Hofmeyr, was involved in motor vehicle sales and did not have any experience in the airline industry.

'Never met King' 

Mahlangu, the sole director and head of BnP Capital, continued to give evidence on Friday. He has previously testified that he never met King, who was supposed to be one of his two deputies. He also said he did not do any background research on In Line Trading 10. 

On Thursday he also told the commission that Masotsha Mngadi, previously described by a colleague as former SAA chair Dudu Myeni's "person" or "adviser" at the airline, had told BnP to put King's name in the bid documents instead of his [Mngadi's]. Mngadi wrote all correspondence and attended all meetings with SAA. 

Mngadi has not testified at the inquiry. It is not known if he will be summoned to give evidence or ask to cross-examine witnesses. A senior employee of Nedbank at the time of the tender, he was suspended by the bank in July 2016.

Asked by Hofmeyr if he would have partnered with In Line Trading 10 if he knew that it was in the motor trade, and not a financial advisory firm, Mahlangu said he would not have. 

The contract between BnP, In Line Trading and SAA was eventually cancelled on July 21, 2016, after law firm Webber Wentzel threatened to take SAA to court, based on documents leaked by a whisteblower. BnP Capital's license to operate as a financial services provider had at the time been suspended. 

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