Anoj Singh is in big trouble. Evidence in the #GuptaLeaks and elsewhere points to a criminal conspiracy to defraud South Africans of billions. Singh was a central and willing player as CFO at Transnet and then Eskom – while accepting a secret offshore company, hospitality and seemingly large amounts of cash from the Guptas.
Suspended Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh allowed billions in public money to slip through his fingers and into the Guptas’ pockets while they paid him offshore, the #GuptaLeaks suggest.
We have identified at least around R30bn in crane, train and other Transnet contracts against which Gupta companies stood to get about R5.6bn in kickbacks.
These were all during Singh's tenure at Transnet, alongside chief executive Brian Molefe, where the Gupta-friendly duo executed a spending plan worth hundreds of billions.
Meanwhile, the Guptas opened a shell company for Singh in a highly secretive United Arab Emirates (UAE) jurisdiction – just after Transnet kickbacks started rolling into their accounts.
The #GuptaLeaks contain glimpses of the Guptas paying someone who appears to be Singh hundreds of thousands in cash in Dubai.
They also show that the Guptas employed Singh’s alleged mistress and seemingly helped her to buy a house with a loan.
Meanwhile, the Guptas bankrolled six or seven luxury Dubai stays for Singh (and at least one for his alleged mistress), some of which coincided with key decisions he made in their favour.
When he moved from Transnet to Eskom in 2015, Singh’s conflicting interests – the Guptas’ versus South Africans’ – followed him and found expression in his actions there.
Eskom’s lenders recently demanded Singh’s removal, and he was suspended in July.
Both the opposition Democratic Alliance and the lobby group Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse have laid criminal charges against him for his actions at Eskom. Three Eskom-commissioned investigations and another by the National Treasury indicated he has a case to answer.
Did he look away on purpose? Did he get his hands dirty? The evidence suggests both, though Singh says he is clean.
He told us he would cooperate with law enforcement authorities, but at the time of writing they had not yet approached him.
If they ever do, he has a lot to explain.
'Just a soapie'
On July 19, this year, Singh presented Eskom’s financial results.
They were bad, and Eskom’s auditors provided a gruesome account of the company’s internal controls, which were so weak that the bean counters could not be sure which expenses were regular and which were not.
On the day, we asked Singh a few questions.
Why did the Guptas repeatedly host him in Dubai? Why did they pay many thousands for his massages there? Why did they pay him money offshore? Was he bribed?
The usually smooth-talking CFO leaned uncomfortably on the table as he spoke into the microphone.
“I can go on record to say I have not received a bribe of any sort or taken a bribe from anybody,” he said. “I think, as it relates to the gifts, I will be submitting a tell-all document, so let’s just wait for that, and we will see where that lands up.”
Seven weeks later, Singh has yet to produce the document.
But Singh was irritated.
In response to written questions, he said: “As you may remember, during the Eskom results presentation, speculative information was presented by a journalist to me in this very public platform, which had very little relevance to the substantive issues raised but was presented nonetheless in a very deliberate way designed to impugn my character and reputation in the court of public opinion.
“In this vein,” he said, “I [will] not participate in the soapoprafication (for lack of a better word) of my alleged role in alleged corruption in the companies that I’ve worked in.”
He said: “Issues of corruption are currently subject to forensic investigation. The [National Prosecuting Authority] and the Hawks have recently indicated that they are beginning an investigation into these matters, and I will cooperate with any law enforcement authority if required to do so.”
In a recent BBC Radio 4 interview, Gupta brother Atul denied wrongdoing. He said: "Let’s talk Gupta leaks; there is no authenticity of Gupta leaks at all. They are all everyday deception-mongering to drive their own agenda."
The Gupta brothers and their associates have otherwise consistently declined to comment on detailed #GuptaLeaks allegations.
A servant of the people
Singh, now 44, is a qualified chartered accountant. He studied at the University of Durban-Westville (now University of KwaZulu-Natal) before working as an accountant in the Spar group. Later, he headed big accounts at the auditing firm Deloitte.
He joined Transnet in 2003 where he worked as a senior financial manager in the company’s biggest operating division, Transnet Freight Rail. He later moved into the Transnet group head office where, in 2009, he became acting CFO.
In an email to us, Singh, described the “pivotal role” he thought state-owned companies played in South Africa’s economic transformation. “Tens of millions of people rely on the services, which has a direct bearing on their quality of life, opportunities and economic prospects.
“This is why I chose a career in the public sector.”
People who know or have worked with Singh said he was charming, persuasive and fiendishly clever. One said he was “a frikken genius at fundraising”.
In a 2012 interview, CFO South Africa asked Singh what he was most proud of. He said: “My role as the CFO at Transnet. We recently launched a R300bn capital investment programme, the Market Demand Strategy. It is an ambitious plan that is expected to create 588 000 economy-wide jobs and transform Transnet Freight Rail into the world’s fifth biggest rail freight company.”
But it was exactly this R300bn strategy that made the Guptas inordinately wealthy.
Seven Chinese cranes
Let us begin in 2011.
A Transnet operating division, Transnet Port Terminals, bought seven cranes to lift containers from ships at Durban harbour.
The Chinese state-owned Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries (ZPMC) supplied the cranes for $92m (R650m then).
At the same time, ZPMC started paying off a Dubai shell company called JJ Trading, which quickly paid similar amounts to Gupta companies in the UAE and South Africa.
We shall see that the Guptas frequently used JJ Trading, whose beneficial ownership is unclear, to wash kickbacks.
Singh said of this and a later crane deal: “If a procurement activity has gone through all the process checks and balances, why would any CFO question it on face value? I as CFO had very little involvement in the process per my delegation of authority.”
ZPMC said: “We have no business or any other relationship with Guptas.” It asked us to retract our earlier article about it, but then declined to explain the JJ Trading payments.
95 Chinese locomotives
In 2012, Transnet appointed Singh permanently. He and CEO Brian Molefe then launched their legacy project, the R300bn capital investment plan.
Later in 2012, Transnet signed one of the first big contracts under the plan. Another Chinese firm, China South Rail (CSR), would supply 95 electric locomotives for R2.7bn.
Against this, CSR agreed to pay R537m in kickbacks to Gupta front companies in Dubai and Hong Kong.
JJ Trading washed a lot of this money, again.
CSR did not respond to questions.
Molefe and Singh were still planning to buy another 1 064 locomotives, at about R50bn.
In preparation, Singh needed to raise cash, so in December 2012 Transnet went to tender and appointed a consortium of financial advisors.
The consortium was to be led by McKinsey, a renowned corporate advisory firm, that is today in hot water over Eskom benefits it allegedly channelled to the Gupta-linked company Trillian, now led by one Eric Wood.
Back in 2012, Wood was a partner at Regiments Fund Managers. Regiments was supposed to be McKinsey’s minority partner at Transnet, for roughly a R10m cut.
Instead, Regiments effectively elbowed McKinsey out of the way and took over the job. Its scope and cost of services blossomed to about R266m.
Singh and Molefe provided the fertiliser through a series of motivations and approvals.
For example, in a letter to McKinsey, Singh wrote that the main scope of the McKinsey engagement would be reallocated to Regiments.
A subsequent contract addendum purported to be between Transnet and McKinsey, but Wood scratched out “McKinsey” and signed for Regiments. Singh signed alongside, increasing Regiments’ portion of the contract to R21m.
In a later memorandum, Singh retrospectively motivated for Regiments to be paid an extra R89m. Molefe approved.
Along the way, Regiments picked up other Transnet contracts worth at least R219m.
There were no open tenders for the extra contracts, but Regiments said all was above board.
Over the same period, Regiments paid at least R84m to a Gupta shell company in South Africa called Homix.
Homix, we shall see, was also used by the Guptas to wash kickbacks for other Transnet contracts.
100 Chinese locomotives
Around the end of 2013, Transnet decided to buy another 160 locomotives, supposedly because the big 1 064 purchase was delayed. China South Rail would provide 100 of these. There is no evidence of an open tender.
Once again, the #GutpaLeaks show, CSR agreed to kick back to JJ Trading and other Gupta fronts offshore: R924m against a R4.4bn Transnet contract.
22 Swiss cranes
In February 2014, Transnet contracted to buy 22 more cranes for Durban harbour, this time from the Swiss firm Liebherr.
On the day that the contract was awarded, one of several Liebherr payments hit the Guptas’ UAE accounts. In the #GuptaLeaks, we identified payments totalling $4.2m (about R46m then).
After we published this in July, Liebherr said it was investigating: “We take the allegations very seriously. The business practices described in the article are unacceptable to us. We currently expect the investigation’s results during next week.”
That was 10 weeks ago. Liebherr did not respond to subsequent emails.
359 Chinese locomotives
The next month, March 2014, Transnet announced the big one.
Transnet had chosen four companies to supply the 1 064 electric and diesel locomotives. China South Rail got the biggest chunk: 359 locomotives at about R18bn.
Against this, CSR was to pay a staggering R3.8bn to JJ Trading and other Gupta fronts.
On Monday, April 21, 2014, one month after the contract, JJ Trading paid the Guptas 7.3m Emirati dirham (AED; R20.9m then) in cash, the #GuptaLeaks show.
On Wednesday, it paid another AED1.8m (R5.1m), this time to one of their Bank of Baroda accounts. Another AED3.3m (R9.4m) followed on Thursday. And so on.
A month later, JJ Trading had already paid the Guptas about R590m.
Singh’s little secret
On March 20, 2014, just three days after Transnet awarded China South Rail the 359-locomotive contract, the Guptas opened up a shell company in the UAE.
It was called Venus Limited, and it cost the Guptas AED11 000 (R32 000 then) in administrative fees to open.
Venus was registered in the name of a man who regularly worked for the Guptas. This man, the #GuptaLeaks show, sometimes moved huge amounts of cash into their Dubai accounts for them – a textbook “bagman”, it seems.
Five weeks later, just after the JJ Trading money landed with the Guptas, Singh boarded a plane to Dubai.
There, the Guptas hosted him at the Oberoi hotel where, the #GuptaLeaks have shown, the Gupta brothers regularly looked after South African cabinet ministers, politicians, fixers and officials.
Singh was joined at the Oberoi by brother Tony Gupta and their business partner Salim Essa, travel bookings show. While they were there together, the Gupta “bagman” transferred Venus into Singh’s name.
Where 'Confidentiality is King!'
Venus is registered in Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates of the UAE.
It is notorious – or “popular” – for two reasons: Financial secrecy and tax avoidance.
Online websites that tout Ras Al Khaimah explain “the surprising level of banking privacy” in “RAK”, where “Confidentiality is King!”
According to one: “RAK Offshore sets the bar very high in terms of internal, local, federal and international compliance yet keeping customers' confidentiality at the heart of the system” (their emphasis).
In other words, should someone send illicit funds to Singh’s new company, no one would know.
Singh declined to explain the company’s purpose.
'Mr A Singh's' cash
We have seen no financials for Venus and do not know if the Guptas or their associates paid money to it. However, they appear to have given him cash around that time.
On June 6, 2014, Singh jetted off to Dubai for his second Gupta sojourn. There he spent two nights at the Oberoi with Tony Gupta.
One month later, the Guptas booked Singh in for a third stay at the Oberoi, although evidence suggests he may not have made this appointment.
But Singh was back in Dubai on August 29, his travel records show, when Tony Gupta appeared to give him AED200 000 (R578 000 then) cash.
This is according to the Guptas’ internal accounting records, where a spreadsheet appears to record expenses incurred by Tony Gupta. The entry notes: “Mr A Singh Atlantis”.
It appears “Mr A Singh” was paid at Atlantis, The Palm, an ostentatious resort in Dubai.
This spreadsheet records 97 transactions. They are not listed chronologically, so it is suggestive that immediately below the AED200 000 paid to “Mr A Singh”, a second record notes that AED200 000 (R584 000 then) was paid to “AS Global” a few weeks earlier.
Putting aside the possibility that “AS” refers to Singh’s initials, a reliable source told us this company was for Singh’s benefit. We could not independently verify this.
Singh declined to explain these payments.
A timeline of events (view the full size here)
On November 7, 2014, Singh was back at the Dubai Oberoi to spend two nights. Again, travel booking records suggest Tony Gupta and Essa were there too.
Coincidentally, at that point, the South African telecommunications network company Neotel was trying to clinch a big deal to service Transnet.
According to a report later commissioned by Neotel’s board, the negotiations had been tough. Transnet and Neotel were caught on a few “sticking points”.
These were surmountable, Neotel’s investigators noted, but a month later, Transnet “inexplicably” informed Neotel that negotiations were off.
So Neotel CEO Sunil Joshi sat down with Singh in the seedy, subterranean gloom of SLOW Lounge, Sandton on December 11, 2014.
Describing Joshi’s account, Neotel’s investigators reported that Singh confirmed the deal was off.
“Mr. Joshi was shocked and failed to comprehend how there could have been such a change in attitude from Transnet,” they reported.
Returning to Neotel’s offices, Joshi asked his staff to call up a company called Homix – the same company that Regiments paid R84m, and who we now know to have been little more than a Gupta money cleaner.
Joshi was already acquainted with Homix because, earlier that year, Neotel paid it a R35m “success fee” to close a different Transnet contract, the investigators reported.
That evening and twice the following morning, a Neotel manager met with someone from Homix. The two agreed that Neotel would pay Homix 2% of the Transnet contract plus R25m later.
Like magic, the negotiations were back on track, and the R1.8bn contract was signed a few days later.
Two months later, Transnet had Neotel in a bind once more, and again Singh featured.
In February 2015, Neotel and Homix signed a "business consultancy agreement" to finally give effect to the promise to throw Homix its pound of flesh: R36m, or 2% of the contract.
Neotel took so long to finalise this because, unsurprisingly, its compliance staff were unhappy with the arrangement.
Come February 25, 2015 the company had not yet paid Homix.
That same day, it so happened Singh was back at the Dubai Oberoi for another two-night stay with Tony Gupta.
Coincidentally, on that day, Transnet failed to pay Neotel for its January and February services.
This was on the “express instruction” of Singh himself, Neotel staff told the investigators – and “precisely” because Neotel had not paid Homix.
The logjam was broken when Transnet paid Neotel and Neotel paid Homix in succession – while Singh and Tony Gupta were together in Dubai.
Transnet and Neotel’s relationship evidently improved because, the following month, Transnet ordered CCTV cameras worth R505m from Neotel.
True to the pattern, Neotel’s subcontractor on the CCTV job then funnelled R15m to The New Age, then the Guptas’ newspaper company.
Two unconnected people told us how, during his Transnet days, Singh travelled to Dubai with a “girlfriend” who once worked at Transnet.
We have identified a woman matching this description in the #GuptaLeaks. She is not the same person as Singh’s wife.
The leaks showed this woman was listed to attend a Gupta company year-end party in Sandton with Singh as her “partner”.
Singh, who confirmed knowing her, asked us not to name her because he was concerned about her state of mind. Having spoken to her ourselves, we agreed. She declined to comment on the substantive issues.
The #GuptaLeaks reveal that Sahara Computers employed Singh’s “girlfriend” as a project manager in January 2015.
At Sahara, the woman’s monthly salary was R50 000. This was the seventeenth highest salary of 260 employees, equalling that of her line manager – in spite of an apparently non-descript role.
Other documents in the leaks show that Sahara lent her R400 000 later that year, filling the hole between her bank loan and the price tag on her second house, a R1.36m property in Midrand.
Such generous treatment was uncharacteristic for Sahara, a usually stingy company. The suggestion is that, for some reason, the Guptas appeared to take a particularly special interest in caring for Singh’s alleged mistress.
In an email found in the leaks, the woman wrote to her line manager on February 25 to tell him: "I will be away from office tomorrow and Friday as Mr T Gupta has requested me to go to Dubai.”
Singh was already in Dubai. When she landed there the next day, her airport pickup, accommodation and meals were charged to his room.
Singh’s total invoice was for AED18 310 (R60 000 then). Singh was recorded as being from the Gupta company Sahara Computers, and the bill was paid for with a Gupta employee’s credit card.
There was one more thing about Singh’s February 2015 Dubai trip that raises questions.
His Oberoi stay was extended for three days. During this extra time, the Guptas arranged for one of China South Rail’s vice presidents to join him there, #GuptaLeaks emails show.
At that time CSR was still paying kickbacks to Gupta-linked companies for contracts awarded by Singh’s Transnet.
The confluence of these three people, orchestrated by the Guptas, is notable.
Two weeks later, the CSR vice president, Tony Gupta and Essa, the Guptas’ partner, travelled together on a chartered flight in India.
A few days after this, an email from the CSR vice president was recirculated among senior Gupta personnel. Attached to the email was a spreadsheet that reconciled kickbacks CSR owed and had already paid to JJ Trading on the three Transnet locomotive contracts.
Not long after, Essa and CSR signed a new kickback contract. According to this, the CSR kickbacks would be diverted from JJ Trading to an Essa company in Hong Kong.
Singh declined to explain.
Ructions at Eskom
Not two weeks after Singh returned from that Dubai trip, on March 12, 2015, the Eskom board suspended its CEO, finance director and two other executives.
Eskom’s then chairperson said this was to make way for an investigation into Eskom’s poor power generation performance and related problems. He said: "There is nothing sinister happening. This is a fact-finding inquiry ... which will last for three months."
But many viewed the suspensions as a sham to get executives out of the way. Indeed, three of them soon resigned. President Jacob Zuma later apologised to the former CEO.
The upshot, however, was that the way was cleared for the tag team of Brian Molefe and Anoj Singh to take over at the public power utility – where the Guptas and their associates had battled to close coal and financial contracts.
Molefe was seconded to Eskom in March 2015 as acting CEO. Singh moved across, also in an acting role, a little later – but not before another trip to the Dubai Oberoi.
An Eskom briefing?
Singh flew back to Dubai on June 11, 2015. This was his sixth trip to be arranged by the Guptas.
As usual, Tony Gupta was there.
In the circumstances, it seems reasonable to ask: Was Singh there to receive his Eskom briefing?
One month later, Singh was seconded to Eskom – and two days after that, Tony Gupta, Ajay Gupta's son Kamal, and Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane were all present at the Oberoi.
The Guptas and Duduzane were about to benefit hugely under the new Eskom regime.
Just two weeks later, Molefe and Ajay Gupta spoke on the phone. This was first of 78 phone interactions between Molefe and the Guptas that were reported on by the former public protector in her “State of Capture” investigation.
In the closing months of 2015, the Gupta partner Essa founded the financial advisory firm Trillian Capital Partners.
Recall that on at least two of Singh’s trips to the Dubai Oberoi, Essa was booked in alongside him, so the two were likely acquainted.
Earlier, the Guptas had tried to buy Regiments – the company that Transnet enriched through questionable payments on Singh’s watch and which had made dubious payments to Gupta front companies.
But Eric Wood’s partners at Regiments had turned the Guptas away.
So, Wood started moving his affairs to Essa’s new group, Trillian.
The details of Wood’s transfer to Trillian are entangled in controversy. Regiments’s remaining partners have claimed that both Transnet and Eskom paid Trillian for work their company had done.
Among the disputed Transnet payments was R94m to Trillian that December, for work allegedly done by Regiments.
Even though Singh was at Eskom by then, people close to Transnet described such payments as “the cigarette that Anoj left burning in the ashtray when he left”.
Got a light?
Over at Eskom, with Singh and Molefe in place, Wood and Essa appeared to peel open a new pack of cigarettes.
Eskom and McKinsey signed an agreement in September 2015 to work on an Eskom corporate plan. Regiments worked directly on the plan alongside McKinsey, with the intention that the former would become the latter's supplier development partner.
It was Singh who allegedly asked Regiments to help prepare Eskom’s corporate plan, according to a recent investigation by Advocate Geoff Budlender, conducted on the Trillian chair’s instruction.
McKinsey said the Regiments supplier development contract was never formalised.
But as Wood began to split away from Regiments to establish Trillian with Essa, McKinsey followed suit. It adopted Trillian as its intended supplier development partner on another big Eskom project, "the turnaround plan".
Eskom has said Singh was not responsible for later signing a master services agreement for this plan, but one well-placed source said he was responsible for key negotiations.
McKinsey said: "Trillian ultimately failed McKinsey's due diligence and the consultancy terminated its discussions with Trillian in March 2016."
Eskom has admitted that it paid Trillian, however.
Wood and his staff, whether as Regiments or Trillian, also appeared to do other work at Eskom under Singh.
For example, senior Eskom staffers told us how, after Singh arrived, he started touting Regiments’ services for various jobs.
Their standard response was: “But we’ve already done that.” Or: “But we can do that ourselves.”
Then, the staffers alleged, Singh went quiet, and they learned indirectly that he had Wood doing jobs behind their backs.
In December 2015, Singh introduced Wood to Eskom’s insurers, who were covering a blown boiler, and Wood and his staff apparently advised Eskom on this project.
But some McKinsey staff appeared to feel that Wood and his colleagues were simply along for the ride or an “unwanted piece of baggage”, as one Trillian executive described it to Budlender.
For example, the Trillian executive recounted how, in a meeting, a McKinsey employee said: “Regardless of the [Trillian] resources allocated to projects, Trillian will still get their 30%”, and: "It doesn’t really matter as long as you get your percentage."
Budlender concluded: "The Eskom contract price included 30% for Trillian, which from those [McKinsey] representatives’ point of view served little purpose other than to provide a substantial financial benefit to Trillian and its shareholders — and presumably to induce Eskom to award the contract to McKinsey".
McKinsey replied that it took “supplier development and professional standards seriously, and that it would only ever consider entering into a supplier development partnership which would achieve impact and value for its clients, and build local capabilities in parallel”.
'Singh’s got our back'
Budlender also described an encounter between Wood and a Trillian executive, as recounted by her. She had fretted because a McKinsey due diligence concluded that Trillian was too politically exposed because of Essa’s relationship with the Guptas.
Budlender reported: “[She] said that she discussed this with Dr Wood in April 2016. He said that she was not to worry, as he would discuss the matter with Mr Anoj Singh of Eskom. He said that Trillian had responded to an Eskom request for proposals, and Mr Singh would appoint Trillian through that process.
“The obvious question which arises is how [Wood] could be so confident that Eskom would appoint Trillian.”
Eskom has admitted to paying R495m to Trillian without contracts. We understand the true figure to be nearly R600m.
Trillian has denied wrongdoing and said it "delivered a high standard of work to its clients"
Another well-told story, involving Singh and the Guptas, is how, over 2015 and early 2016, Eskom sandwiched Glencore, the owner of Optimum Coal Holdings, between a gigantic fine for poor quality coal and a tough negotiating position on Optimum’s coal prices – all while the Guptas tried to buy Optimum’s mine and related assets.
The former public protector chronicled this in her “State of Capture” report.
She showed how Eskom CEO Molefe and mines minister Mosebenzi Zwane were in close contact with the Guptas while putting the squeeze on Glencore.
Singh showed his hand a few times.
He provided a boost to the Gupta balance sheets when, late in December 2015 – when most of his staffers were on holiday – he arranged a R1.6bn Eskom guarantee against the Guptas’ future coal supplies.
An insider explained to us that it was not unusual for Eskom to give such guarantees to help establish new mines and therefore secure future coal supplies.
What was questionable in this case (aside from Singh’s close and beneficial relationship with the Guptas), was that Optimum was already up and running. No capital investment was necessary to secure its coal supplies, they said.
Singh reaches out again
In “State of Capture”, the public protector analysed bank records and alleged that Trillian ultimately contributed R235-million towards the Guptas’ Optimum purchase consideration. Trillian denied this, although a recent report suggested a financial regulator corroborated the public protector’s finding.
Much of Trillian’s money was presumably derived from Eskom and Transnet payments, made under Singh’s watch. But at least one invoice, for R30.6m, was sent directly to Singh on April 14, 2016 – the same day that the Guptas’ Tegeta Exploration and Resources had to pay R2.1bn for Optimum.
The Guptas were struggling to come up with the cash, so this payment may have been urgent for them.
The invoice was stamped “paid” on the same day that Singh received it.
At the same time, the Guptas were battling to come up with the last R600m they needed to close the deal.
The banks would not help, and Eskom’s board tender committee held an eleventh-hour meeting and agreed that Eskom would prepay the Guptas R659m for coal to be provided in the future.
Singh’s job included making sure the Guptas’ coal was not overpriced. Treasury investigators have complained that it was and that Singh failed to do a proper due-diligence, while accepting gifts from the Guptas in the form of the Oberoi stays.
In a recent report, they said an investigation was needed into whether Singh accepted “gratuities” to improperly influence his decisions.
The Guptas immediately used Eskom’s cash to buy Optimum.
Eskom has countered that the coal was fairly priced, that it was supplied and that Tegeta offered shares as security.
Eskom also said it urgently needed the coal to avert load shedding – yet, just two weeks earlier, public enterprises minister Lynne Brown told parliament: “Load shedding has become a thing of the past… The group chief executive officer, Brian Molefe, has assured me that there is no prognosis for load shedding over the winter months,”
Singh and the 'state capture year-end party'
In December and January 2015, the Guptas invited a long list of officials, politicians and fixers to join them at the Oberoi.
Over a few weeks, they were joined by Duduzane Zuma, former finance minister Des van Rooyen (he had been appointed and fired a few days before arriving in Dubai), Free State Premier Ace Magashule’s sons, arms deal and Gupta fixer Fana Hlongwana, then deputy minister of public service and administration Ayanda Dlodlo (Hlongwana paid for himself and Dlodlo), public enterprises minister Lynne Brown’s allegedly powerful personal assistant, Denel chairman Dan Mantsha and Eskom’s group executive for generation, Matshela Koko.
Sars commissioner Tom Moyane also happened to be in town, according to news reports. But this was purely coincidental, he said.
Singh was there too.
Most of the people listed have been linked to benefits that the Guptas and their partners derived from the state.
And given that President Jacob Zuma had just attempted (but failed) to install a Gupta friend to the finance ministry, it is tempting to view the Oberoi gathering as a “state capture year-end party” – albeit with the finance minister glitch.
Singh’s attendance was significant given the events then playing out at Eskom involving Regiments, Trillian and the Optimum coal deal.
The host, Peter Ndoro, asked Singh about his relationship with the Guptas and his trips to Dubai.
Singh ducked: “As I indicated yesterday, there is a document that I am currently preparing that will reveal the nature of the trips…”
Ndoro interrupted: “But Anoj, this isn’t brain surgery. You either went or you didn’t. Did you go?”
“No. I mean, yes, I did.”
“Did the Guptas pay for it?”
“No they didn’t.”
“But they didn’t give you any gifts whatsoever?”
“So what is your relationship with the Guptas?”
“Well I think it’s like any other South African business person. I know them. I’ve been with them. I’ve met them, by and large as a result of the The New Age breakfasts, so ja.”
“So nothing unusual is going to come up in these emails to suggest that an impropriety or a relationship that is inappropriate between someone who is doing work for Transnet and then the CFO… Because you should have distanced yourself a little bit more once they had contracts with you, right?”
Anoj blinked hard, then screwed up his face thoughtfully: “Well if you look at the Transnet environment, I don’t think there was any contracts with Sahara that Transnet had entered into.”
Nobody said there were.
Singh continued: “Maybe on the Eskom side a bit more diligence would have been required. And the emails currently paint a relatively… a picture, and I think that’s the reason for the document being prepared to give perspective in terms of what the actual reality was.”
By then, Singh looked as if he felt a little hot under the collar.
Once, an Oberoi staffer wrote to a Gupta employee: “Please note that with approval of Mr Gupta we also charged the credit card which you provided to us for Mr Singh charges.”
On another occasion, one Gupta employee told another to “please swipe the card for all charges” against Singh’s expenses.
And after another trip, a Gupta employee sent Singh’s Oberoi bill to Tony Gupta who responded: “Ok.”
In response to our long list of written questions, Singh conceded that, “with regard to procurement, the buck does stop with me”.
And: “With the benefit of hindsight and new facts (assuming they are correct) – presented by amaBhungane and other journalists – which I was not aware of at the time, these transactions could look suspicious and may very well be irregular,” he said.
But he thinks journalists are treating him unfairly.
“What has been distressing for me,” he said, “are speculative reports about my role in alleged corruption, concluded through largely speculative reporting written in a pointed way to substantiate the ‘state capture’ narrative. As if to say that I am some overlord that wields a magic pen and a blank cheque book at will.”
We could not have phrased it better.
*This story was edited after publication to correct the circumstances of McKinsey's relationship with Regiments and Trillian at Eskom and to include extended comment from McKinsey.
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