In an attempt to muscle in on a R140m consultancy deal in 2011, one Gupta brother allegedly offered former Free State Economic Development MEC Mxolisi Dukwana a R2m bribe in exchange for his approval of Gupta-linked businessmen being awarded the contract.
Before the now infamous Estina dairy farm project got off the ground, the Gupta family and their associates had first set their hopes on a potential R20bn "City for Tomorrow" (CFT) project in the province, a News24 investigation has found.
News24 also found that Rajesh 'Tony' Gupta was eyeing a roughly R80m cut of the initial R140m phase of the project for little or no work in what has emerged as a remarkably similar scheme to Estina.
Dukwana is scheduled to appear before the Zondo Commission of inquiry into state capture on Friday, and is expected to reveal the attempted bribe and more details of state capture in the Free State.
The money, one source told News24, was brought into a room at the Gupta family home in Saxonwold in a snake-skin briefcase during a meeting about the CFT project in 2011.
Gupta allegedly offered Dukwana the cash then and there, and a further R2m a month, while then Free State Premier Ace Magashule was present.
Dukwana said in court papers last year that Magashule had brought him to the Gupta home.
On Thursday, Magashule denied any knowledge of the alleged bribe or the meeting when asked why he did not report the offence to law enforcement.
In exchange for the cash, Dukwana was supposed to sign a document, presented to him on a Free State provincial government letterhead, giving the go ahead to two companies named Nulane Investments 204 and P3 International to develop a master plan and schematic for the City for Tomorrow, at a cost of R140m.
Nulane was owned by Gupta-linked businessman and former Transnet board member Iqbal Sharma while his American business partner John Thomas owned California-based P3.
Dukwana claimed in court papers that he refused to sign the documents.
But a News24 investigation that delved into court papers, company records and documents in the Gupta leaks as well as extensive interviews with key players involved in the planned deal has revealed Dukwana may in fact have signed after all.
Dukwana has denied that signatures on documents unearthed by News24 matching the description of documents he claims to have refused to sign, are legitimate.
An unsigned sub-contracting agreement between a Gupta-owned shelf company and Sharma's Nulane show Gupta's intention to scoop R80m off the top.
Responding to questions from News24, Magashule denied any involvement in the City for Tomorrow project. He further denied pressuring Dukwana into signing documents to give the go-ahead on the City for Tomorrow project.
"I don't know what you are talking about. Your questions and the narrative you give is a rehashing of your previous story. Which remains one-sided and misleading, evidently geared towards perpetuating a false narrative based on fabrications and lies. Your attempts to isolate me have not gone unnoticed, but I remain firm and unshakened. And focused on securing a landslide victory for the ANC in the upcoming elections," (sic) Magashule said in a written response.
Magashule refers to News24's coverage of Dukwana's Anton Piller application brought in October last year, in which he sought to seize documents from the provincial government crucial to his testimony before the Zondo Commission.
Sharma dismissed allegations of the events that occurred during the meetings as "complete fabrications".
To read News24’s full investigation and to view a selection of documents behind the story, click here.
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