Finance group SAA hired for R15bn loan had access to confidential briefings, inquiry hears

The judicial inquiry into state capture heard on Friday that BnP Capital, the little known firm which SAA contracted in mid-2016 for a R15bn loan, was privy to confidential briefings about the state of the airline's finances.

The inquiry has been investigating allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud at state entities since August 2018. On Thursday, after weeks of probing state-owned freight rail and port operator Transnet, it turned its attention to embattled flag carrier SAA.

Cynthia Stimpel, a former group treasurer at the airline, continued to testify on Friday about what she says was board interference in the process of acquiring the R15bn debt restructuring loan. 


On Thursday she outlined how the airline's board wanted the Free State Development Corporation to source the funds. This request was denied by Treasury, who said it was beyond the mandate of the group.

Stimpel previously said her objection to the loan contributed to her suspension in July 2016. 

The board then contracted finance company BnP Capital to advise the airline on the debt consolidation loan and later to source the funds on SAA's behalf. 

As Fin24 previously reported, the R256m BnP Capital contract was cancelled by late July 2016. The inquiry is expected to probe the sequence of events that lead to its cancellation. 

The Financial Services Board (now the Financial Sector Conduct Authority) told Fin24 in 2016 that BnP Capital's licence to operate as a financial services provider had been suspended earlier in 2016.

According to her affidavit, Stempel said that on June 3 2016 she and other staff from SAA provided a routine and confidential update to banks that had lent it money about the airline's financial results, turnaround strategy, and finances. BnP was not present.

Five days later SAA received a letter from BnP Capital outlining the main points of the confidential meeting.

"It does surprise me, it should not have been told to BnP," said Stimpel. 

The inquiry continues.

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