Zondo hears of millions that moved between former airport official and private firm

Zondo hears of millions that moved between former airport official and private firm

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Picture: Refilwe Modise

The commission is hearing testimony relating to the flow of money from the North West department of transport, South African Express and to other entities.

The commission of inquiry into state capture on Friday heard testimony on how millions flowed from a company which was allegedly controlled by a government official into an advisory and consultancy firm.

Aviation-related testimony is back in the spotlight at the commission chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

The director of Neo Solutions, Vivien Natasen, took the witness stand on Friday to give testimony relating to the flow of money from the North West department of transport to state-owned South African Express (SAX), Koreneka Trading and Projects, Neo Solutions, and then to an entity called Batsami Investment Holding.

The evidence leader at the commission, senior counsel Kate Hofmeyr earlier told the commission that according to previous testimony at the inquiry, Koreneka was controlled by former SAX commercial manager Brian van Wyk.

The sole director of Koreneka Trading and Projects Babadi Tlatsana, last month told the commission about how her company won a R51 million airports job in the North West.

Natasen told the commission that on November 11, 2015, R5 million was transferred from Koreneka to Neo Solutions and that on November 12, 2015, another 4.9 million was transferred from the same company to the bank account of his own entity.

On December 11 of that year, R4 million was transferred from Neo Solutions to Batsami and another R3 million was paid to the same entity on December 22, 2015, the commission heard.

On January 4, 2016, Van Wyk requested that R300,000 be paid to him in cash, Natasen told the commission.

On March 10, 2016, Neo Solutions paid Batsami R1.4 million and another R1.2 million was paid to the same entity on March 29, 2016.

Natasen told the commission that the transfers from Neo Solutions to Batsami were on instruction from Van Wyk.

Hofmeyr noted before the chair that this brought the total amount of money moved between these entities, including the cash payment to Van Wyk, to R9.9 million between November 2015 and March 2016.

Natasen told the commission that neither Neo Solutions nor he had benefited from these transactions.

The movement of this money was a result of a request Van Wyk had made to Natasen, the commission heard.

Van Wyk had approached Natasen around October 2015 to request that Neo Solutions hold R10 million for him, dividends he had secured from private business interests, the witness said.

Natasen added that he had asked Van Wyk if the money was “clean” and “above board” to which the former SAX employee said it was, adding that he, Van Wyk, did not want the money to “hit his bank account” because it would make his employer “jealous” once they discovered the funds when conducting lifestyle audits.

Hofmeyr and Zondo repeatedly questioned the witness if he deemed this explanation as plausible and on why Van Wyk’s request had not rung any alarm bells because if the money was clean and above board, the former SAX employee should have not had issues with it being in his bank account.

Zondo pointed out that as a qualified chartered accountant with knowledge on activities of corruption, Natasen should have “smelled that there might be something wrong” with van Wyk’s request.

“The guy was [a] friend, he gave me an undertaking that there was nothing untoward about the funds,” Natasen said, adding that he had assumed that the money would be Van Wyk’s portion of investments into businesses the two intended to venture into.

Natasen earlier told the commission that Neo Solutions is neither an accountable institution under the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA), a financial services provider, nor a deposit-taking an institution, which means it could not hold money for third parties like a bank would.

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