How the Guptas scored a whopping R2bn discount from Eskom

Atul Gupta. Picture: Gallo Images

A former Eskom board member who also worked for the Guptas was reportedly instrumental in brokering the deal between the power utility and Optimum.

A former board member at Eskom and Gupta-owned Oakbay Investments allegedly helped the controversial family to secure a R2-billion discount when they bought Glencore’s Optimum Coal Mine in 2015, according to the latest #GuptaEmails.

The Times reported on Thursday that Mark Pamensky, who recently resigned from both Eskom and Oakbay, was instrumental in brokering the Optimum deal and advised the Guptas to ensure they did not pay a fine of R2.1 billion that was imposed by Eskom on Glencore.

The hefty fine was levied by the state-owned power utility over a contractual dispute involving a coal-supply agreement and reportedly “broke the back” of Optimum, and led to Glencore selling the mine that was bought by Gupta-owned Tegeta in October 2015.

Leaked email correspondence, seen by the newspaper, has raised questions about a conflict of interest regarding Pamensky’s activities even though he did not sit on Eskom’s board tender committee.

The emails apparently reveal he was involved on the side of Tegeta in advising the Guptas against paying the fine despite the payment of the initial R2.1 billion fine being beneficial to Eskom, which he also represented at the time.

The fine was subsequently reduced to R255.4 million once the Guptas acquired Optimum with generous terms for paying it off.

The emails also reveal that Pamensky was involved in the Optimum Mine deal and even met with Glencore’s former director in South Africa, Clinton Ephron, as part of negotiations for the Guptas.

An email Pamensky sent to Atul Gupta in November 2015 reportedly stated: “As I’m at the tail-end of the main acquisition of Optimal [Optimum] Coal, please ensure that a condition precedent is that the R2bn claim from Eskom is [that it is] withdrawn or it becomes the seller’s problem.

“I’m happy to get involved to assist with this acquisition and monthly monitoring/analysing of all investments from today. I can meet anyone you require. If you need me in India or Dubai to discuss, I’ll meet you there.”

Pamensky has denied any wrongdoing to The Times and failed to also explain why he had advised the Guptas, while Ephron declined to comment on the allegations.

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