Gupta-linked firm ‘knew of’ Nenegate weeks in advance - report

Former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene. (Bloomberg)
Former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene. (Bloomberg)

Johannesburg - Executives at financial consulting group Trillian Capital Partners were allegedly briefed about the axing of former Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene weeks before the event happened, according to a Sunday Times report.

President Jacob Zuma’s firing of Nene on December 9 2015 and subsequent hiring of back-bencher Des van Rooyen stunned South Africa’s currency and equity markets.

Amid the backlash, the ruling ANC prompted Zuma to shift Van Rooyen from the post of Finance Minister to that of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

Subsequently Pravin Gordhan became South Africa’s Finance Minister again, a post he currently still holds.

The saga in December last year became known as ‘Nenegate’ or ‘9/12’.

READ: Zuma removes Nene as finance minister

But a report from the Sunday Times reveals that the event could have been planned months in advance, according to an affidavit given to former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela by an anonymous ‘whistleblower’ who used to be a former CEO of a business unit at Johannesburg headquartered Trillian Capital Partners.

Trillian Capital Partners, which forms part of the Trillian group, is 60% held by Trillian Holdings while its sole director Salim Essa, is said to be a close Gupta associate.

“26th October 2015, I was informed by my direct line manager, Eric Wood at Regiments Capital that the President of the Republic of South Africa was going to replace Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene,” the whistleblower reportedly wrote in her affidavit, according to the Sunday Times report.

The whistleblower further reportedly said in the affidavit that on 9/12 Wood told her that her former colleague, Mohammed Bobat, would be appointed special adviser to Van Rooyen. Bobat was a principal at Regiments Capital in the management consulting division and reported directly to Wood, according to the whistleblower.

Bobat was then expected to “channel all tenders from National Treasury and State Owned Companies” to a team of experts that would include expertise from Trillian Capital, the whistleblower said.

Bobat, though, has denied the whistleblower’s claims. The whistleblower further said that Trillian won a R5m deal for a capital raising transaction for SA Express that allegedly never went through. Meanwhile, the company also stands accused of invoicing Transnet R10m for work that “could not have taken place”.

Wood denied all allegations by the whistleblower and described her as a “disaffected employee” and fraudster who has stolen confidential company information.

READ: More banks back Gordhan on Gupta saga

Trillian Capital Partners

Trillian Capital Partners’ website states that the company “offers efficient and long-lasting solutions to the public and private sector by merging cross-functional skills in the fields of business strategy and management consulting with specialist investment products”.

Business areas that Trillian Capital focuses on include financial advisory and specialised finance, management consulting, asset management, securities support services and property.

The business, which is further based in the upmarket Melrose Arch precinct in northern Johannesburg, started operations in 2010 as Trillian Asset Management.

In 2015, Trillian Asset Management then became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Trillian Capital Partners and the business today says it has a team of 100 staff.

Prominent ANC politician and businessman Tokyo Sexwale is a chairman of Trillian Capital, according to the company’s website.

Eric Wood, according to his LinkedIn profile, has been CEO of Trillian Capital Partners since March 2016. Prior to that, he was an executive director at Regiments Capital for over 11 years until February 2016.

His previous roles have also included being a former head of Investec Trading.

Trillian Capital Partners could not be immediately reached by Fin24.

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