SA Express pays over R5m to Trillian for 'funding plan'

Cape Town – Another state-owned company has done business with the controversial Gupta-linked consultancy firm Trillian Capital Partners – this time cash-strapped SA Express, which paid the company over R5m for consultancy services in 2016.

According to written response by Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, state-owned airline SA Express paid R5.7m for a “funding plan” and “balance sheet optimisation” provided by Trillian.

In response to a parliamentary question posed by the DA's Natasha Mazzone, Brown said the payment was approved by the executive management team at SA Express.

SA Express’ latest unaudited results show it made a R234m loss in the 2016-17 financial year, after a R16.9m profit the previous year. Brown admitted before Parliament that SA Express – like SAA – is also in need of a financial bailout from National Treasury.

Brown’s response of a SA Express’ payment to Trillian comes on the back of revelations in late June that the consulting firm received at least R266m from Eskom, despite the absence of any tenders or contracts for its work.

According to damning report by Advocate Geoff Budlender, Trillian – which was majority-owned by Salim Essa, a close business associate of the Gupta family – benefited handsomely from the transactions with Eskom.

In August, Brown demanded that Eskom provide her with more information regarding payments and business transactions relating to Trillian, after an admission from Eskom head of legal Suzanne Daniels that the power utility had lied about receiving approval from a global consultancy firm to make payments to Trillian.

Brown also revealed in her parliamentary response that SA Express had paid over R8.2m over a three-year period to financial advisory firm Regiments – also for a funding plan and balance sheet optimisation.

Trillian CEO Eric Wood used to be a director at Regiments Capital before joining Trillian in 2016.

Fin24 earlier reported that Wood was accused in court documents of “knowingly allowing Regiments to be used as a conduit for an entirely fictitious set of transactions” to launder money.

The allegations were made by Regiments director Litha Nyhonyha in an affidavit last year.

At the end of July this year, Essa sold all his shares in Trillian to Wood, who is now the firm's majority stakeholder with 85% of its shares. The rest of the shares is owned by management and staff.

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