Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is poised to serve preservation orders on Gupta-linked Trillian and global consultancy McKinsey.

However‚ the NPA has denied that it is planning to seize Gupta assets on Tuesday‚ contrary to media reports late on Monday.

The preservation orders are for assets to the value of R1.6bn‚ in relation to work both companies did for state-owned power utility Eskom and were approved by NPA director Shaun Abrahams.

Suspended head of legal compliance for Eskom, Suzanne Daniels, issued letters of demand to McKinsey and Trillian in October‚ also to the value of R1.6bn — the amount collectively paid to both.

According to NPA spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku the application was received on December 14.

“The papers were supposed to be served tomorrow and then we would have communicated after they were served.”

According to Mfaku after the orders were served‚ Trillian and McKinsey would have 90 days to defend them.

The onus would be on the companies to prove how they lawfully obtained the assets and if they failed to do so‚ applications would be made to seize the assets‚ at which point the Asset Forfeiture Unit would step in.

Eskom in the letters of demand argued that the contract between it and both companies was unlawful as‚ according to the National Treasury‚ McKinsey’s and Trillian’s fees were supposed to be paid at an hourly rate‚ and not percentages.

The move marks the first strike by the NPA against some of the players involved in state capture.

A source in the AFU‚ with knowledge of the case‚ said what had been issued was a freezing order.

“This is to secure primarily bank accounts‚ the majority of which are accounts based overseas.”

He said such orders would see a curator being appointed by a court who would‚ with their team‚ locate all local and foreign assets.

“They are going to deal with number of international banks‚ especially in Dubai which is notorious when it comes to non-cooperation in such cases. That’s where a lot of the money has been taken and investigators will zero in there.

“Given the pressure and the overwhelming evidence contained in the e-mails‚ which the AFU has‚ it will hopefully be enough to force co-operation from Dubai banks.”

He said the move was way overdue with the pressure having become intolerable.

“The R1.6bn which they are going for is relatively small compared to the estimated R30bn which has allegedly been stolen.”

The source said that given the evidence that the AFU would have obtained‚ it would be difficult for people to argue their way out of the case.

“Preservation orders are seldom contested. That’s because they require the person‚ whose assets are being seized‚ to say whether they will fight it or not. If they choose to fight the order then they have to voluntarily come to court and state their case under oath.

“This is where they can get into trouble because whatever they tell the court can get used against them in a criminal case. More often than not people don’t contest these cases.”

He said what would be interesting to see was how well the Hawks would co-operate with the AFU investigators.

“They will need to provide the investigators with quite a bit of evidence. Fortunately the team already has the e-mails which will have provided a lot of good evidence.”

He said should the AFU’s application be successful‚ it would be one of the unit’s biggest preservation successes.

“The largest preservation success to date has been against the Gauteng Health Department with the amount totalling R1.8bn.”

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) evidently applied pressure on the NPA to force Abrahams’s hand, threatening to take the matter to court. Mfaku, however, said the long delay in giving effect to the order was because the asset forfeiture team was  on holiday.

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