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Sexwale seeks authority over Trillian probe with judicial inquiry

May 25 2017 15:17
Lameez Omarjee, Fin24

Johannesburg – A current independent investigation into Trillian Capital Partners will be finalised in June. Thereafter a further probe will be undertaken by a judicial commission, according to Tokyo Sexwale.

Sexwale, who is an independent, non-executive chair at the company, was speaking at a media briefing on Thursday, where he discussed the progress of Advocate Geoff Budlender’s investigation into Trillian Capital.

Last year Sexwale called for the investigation following reports that executives of the financial service provider knew about the firing of former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in 2015, weeks before it happened.

READ: Sexwale launches probe into Trillian Capital over Nenegate

This was alleged in an affidavit filed by a whistleblower to former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. The whistleblower, who used to be a CEO of a business unit at Trillian Capital, explained that this information was to be used to secure government contracts.

Trillian Capital, which is part of the Trillian group, is 60% held by Trillian Holdings whose sole director, Salim Essa, is a close Gupta associate.

At the briefing Sexwale said his actions as a non-executive chair to launch the inquiry, 12 hours after the report came out in the Sunday Times, was “swift” and in the interests of transparency.

He added that he did not take the “corrupt route” by calling for an internal inquiry but instead called for an independent probe led by Budlender, “someone with (an) impeccable reputation”.

However, Sexwale said the nobility of his actions was undermined by Budlender’s limited powers.

Throughout Budlender’s probe, the advocate found it difficult to subpoena witnesses, explained Sexwale. Further, Trillian’s management - which had furnished him with “thousands” of documents - wanted a chance to represent themselves in person, call witnesses and cross-examine them and be cross-examined themselves.

“I find it as appropriate that the person dealing with the matter should have necessary authority… I am elevating this matter to a judicial commission.” This is in line with the recommendations of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, he said.

Power to subpoena Zuma himself

Sexwale added that the judicial commission would have the resources and the power to subpoena subjects of the inquiry, such as President Jacob Zuma.

“It is important for the president to take the public of South Africa into confidence on how information belonging to him ended up in the public domain,” he said.

“In the interests of [Trillian] management, in the interests of the public protector report and in the interests of transparency, Geoff can’t do the job alone and he shares these sentiments,” he said.

Sexwale added that as a taxpaying South African and a non-executive chairperson with an interest in investing in the company, he felt it necessary for the information to come to light.

He explained that the president, who is conflicted, cannot appoint the commission and that this responsibility will rest on the public protector and Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. “I have trust and belief in (the) recommendation of Thuli and trust and belief in Chief Justice (Mogoeng).”

He added that he could not say how long it would take for the judicial inquiry to be concluded.

Sexwale will remain chair of Trillian until Budlender's report is handed in and made publicly available in June. 

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