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Maze of front companies linked to Transnet rail deal - report

Nov 16 2017 21:15

Cape Town - Gallenade, Success Stand, Shun Shi, Honorway, Bestway, PAI, Al Malaki, Vogen, Daya and Flybright.

These are some of the three-dozen shell companies that a new investigation by The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) found allegedly received payments from Gupta-linked companies related to the controversial China South Rail-Transnet contract.

OCCRP, an investigative reporting platform, published the report on Wednesday.

In June, SA investigative journalism outfits amaBhungane and Scorpio reported about alleged kickbacks in the Transnet contract based on the #GuptaLeaks

The project investigated the $321m (about R4.6bn at the present exchange rate)  “advisory fee” that contracts show China South Rail promised to pay to two companies allegedly linked to Salim Essa, a friend and close business associate of the Gupta family.  

These were Tequesta, which OCCRP described as Essa’s “Hong-Kong-registered advisory firm”, and Regiment’s Asia 

The OCCRP said that Regiments Asia was alleged cofounded by Eric Wood of Trillian, but Wood denied any links to the firm. Essa did not respond to questions.

“The OCCRP trace[d] a total of $75m paid out by China South Rail after the contract was signed and $39.8m in the three months prior to that,” the report said. “OCCRP did not have access to all records to track the full $321m in payments.”

“The documents show that the money went first to Gupta-associated companies and then on to a series of small shell companies where much of it disappeared. 

"But some is traceable to payments on everything from coffee to luxury cars. Bankers often failed to flag a suspicious scheme, accepting large payments from the Chinese rail firm and then paying out a series of smaller payments to an array of shell companies controlled by the Guptas,” the report said. 

$114.6m

“The banking data reveals that a total of $114.6m was paid out by China South Rail in more than 40 transactions. About $49m was sent to Tequesta’s HSBC account between June and October 2015. The remaining $65m went into the HSBC account of a Hong Kong company called Regiments Asia, also throughout 2015,” according to the report.

The OCCRP reported that Regiments Asia paid more than $100m from its account to "shell companies that appeared to have no substantive business activity, employees, or even physical offices".

In added that, in total about 20 banks sent or received money from Regiments Asia, Tequesta, or the shell companies.

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