Gas firm deal ‘fishy’

There was toyi-toyiing and a picket outside the Greytown Lodge, the venue where a public consultation meeting was expected to be held to discuss the exploration of oil and gas.
There was toyi-toyiing and a picket outside the Greytown Lodge, the venue where a public consultation meeting was expected to be held to discuss the exploration of oil and gas.
Ian Carbutt

Pietermaritzburg - The EFF has revealed that a former director of Rhino Oil and Gas Exploration is the chairperson of Denel and a legal adviser to Communications Minister Faith Muthambi.

The company is seeking permission to conduct tests before possible hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to find gas deposits in KZN.

In delivering a motion before the KZN Legislature to set up a committee to probe the ownership of all mining companies in the province and whether they moved profit offshore illegally, EFF MPL Vusi Khoza said the awarding of nearly five million hectares of land to Rhino for exploration “stinks”.

“The company is owned by a Texas-based lawyer, one Patrick James Mulligan and his partner, one Louis Phillip Steyn, a South African based in Cape Town. Digging further, you find very interesting links to these owners of this company. One of the partners who resigned recently is a lawyer, Lungisani Daniel Mantsha. Who is he? He is a legal adviser to Muthambi and he is the executive director and current chairperson of Denel,” said Khoza.

According to company records, Mantsha was a director but he resigned on the same day he was appointed.

But while the motion was dismissed by the majority ANC, Khoza said miners should be cautious.

“We have to warn all roleplayers in this matter that our people’s patience has been stretched to the limit, and they won’t be forever patient when their God-given wealth is pillaged right under their feet, so to speak.”

He said it is a known fact that mining companies operating in KZN “expatriate their profits” out of the country “to be stashed in offshore accounts in rogue tax haven countries”.

Rhino has been awarded multiple exploration rights throughout the country by the Petroleum Agency of South Africa. These include 1,5 million hectares surrounding Pietermaritzburg and a yet to be disclosed area of 3,2 million hectares of land believed to lie within the Ingonyama Trust, which is controlled by the Zulu Royal Household.

“They [Rhino] were given rights everywhere including the Western Cape coast, KZN and the Free State. Something somewhere is rotten and it stinks. We need to investigate,” said Khoza.

• jonathan.erasmus@witness.co.za

RHINO South Africa’s corporate office, according to its website, is in the British Virgin Islands, a tax haven with lax controls on financial reporting.

The address for its corporate office is a PO Box address, which belongs to a company called Trident Trust — a company that sets up and holds companies on the island. According to Trident Trust, British Virgin Island rules do not tax any offshore profits, there are no exchange controls, it takes only a day to set up a company and requires no public filings or annual return filings. Furthermore it requires no company secretary, no directors and no meetings, while board meetings and administration can take place anywhere in the world.

Its U.S. operational office, Rhino Resources (USA) Inc. is based in Dallas, Texas, at the same address of the Mulligan Law Firm, which boasts of being as one of the largest law firms in the U.S.

However, the U.S. firm is registered in Las Vegas, Nevada, which is a U.S.-based tax haven with opaque company disclosure rules. For instance Rhino Resources (U.S.) owner, lawyer Patrick Mulligan, is registered as the firm’s president, secretary, treasurer and director. No company records for the British Virgin Islands corporate headquarters were publically available.

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