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Sexwale investigation into Trillian Gupta-Nenegate claims hits dead end

Apr 14 2017 15:59
Carin Smith

Cape Town - An investigation launched in October last year by Tokyo Sexwale, independent non-executive chairperson of Trillian, into state capture claims is at risk of fizzling out due to no information being forthcoming.

The purpose of the independent investigation was to establish whether claims made by a whistle blower were true regarding alleged prior knowledge at the company that President Jacob Zuma would fire former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene.

"I have been asking for information [from Trillian] since the middle of January, adv. Geoff Budlender SC, who heads the independent investigation, told Fin24 on Friday.

So far, Trillian has, for instance, not handed over to Budlender the laptop, iPad and telephone of Trillian CEO Eric Wood, as requested.

Trillian attributes the delay in providing Budlender with the information to it having had to replace the attorneys dealing with the matter due to a conflict of interest. The company said it remains committed to the independent investigation by Budlender, but that the new lawyers appointed are required to ensure the process is conducted correctly.

"Yes, new lawyers have had to be appointed, but that has nothing to do with the delay in obtaining information," Budlender told Fin24.

"The information was requested on 17 January 2017. It was not provided. On 16 March 2017 (two months after the request), the attorneys withdrew. The withdrawal of the attorneys in March 2017 cannot justify the failure to provide the information since January 2017."

Budlender said he does not know what more he can do to obtain the information he has asked for since January.

"I am considering my position," he said. "I am speaking out because this is in the public interest."

According to Budlender he has even had to ask Sexwale to intervene a few times in an effort to obtain the information.

READ: Trillian chair Tokyo Sexwale to probe shock Gupta-Nenegate claims

Fin24 reported last year that Sexwale launched the investigation to fully test the veracity of allegations made in a Sunday newspaper at the time.

The Sunday Times had alleged pre-knowledge by a member or members of Trillian concerning Zuma's replacing of Nene by Van Rooyen. This move by Zuma on December 9 2015 had a big negative impact on the rand and SA's equity markets.

The newspaper claimed the firing of Nene and his replacement by Van Rooyen could have been planned months in advance, according to an affidavit given to former public protector Thuli Madonsela by an anonymous "whistle-blower", who apparently used to be a former CEO of a business unit at Johannesburg headquartered Trillian Capital Partners.

Trillian Capital Partners forms part of the Trillian Group, which is majority held by Trillian Holdings, while its sole director Salim Essa is said to be a close Gupta associate.

At the time, the company denied any links to the Guptas. Sexwale also emphasised that Trillian is not Gupta-owned and made the share register of Trillian Holdings available for public scrutiny. He said he had the full support of the board and senior management team to launch the independent investigation.

“In such a situation, if true, it would be extremely alarming and would require a convincing explanation to the nation as to how that which was only supposed to be known by the president, became known in business circles, including Trillian," Sexwale said in a statement at the time.

He added that verifiable evidence, however, needs to be put forward.

According to the Sunday Times, the whistle-blower alleged in her affidavit that she was already informed on October 26 2015 by her direct line manager that Zuma would replace Nene.

Wood at the time denied all allegations by the whistle-blower and called her a “disgruntled former employee”.
On its website Trillian has “named and shamed” the whistle blower.

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