Carol Paton Editor at Large
Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

The Gauteng high court has ordered Gupta-linked consultancy Trillian to return almost R600m in fees to Eskom that the court says appears to be the result of a corrupt relationship between Eskom officials and the directors of Trillian.

The contract with Trillian was part of a bigger 2015 contract with global consultancy McKinsey.

While McKinsey agreed in 2018 to repay Eskom the approximately R1bn it had received as part of the contract, Trillian refused to acknowledge that the funds were wrongfully received. The contract is one of several which the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom has identified as tainted by state capture.

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McKinsey was the main contractor and Trillian was the black empowerment partner that received some aspects of the contract at the behest of Eskom.

The court set aside as “unlawful and invalid” both Eskom’s contract with McKinsey as well as Eskom’s subsequent decisions to make payment to Trillian.

“The probabilities are apparent that the senior officials of Eskom could leave no stone unturned to benefit Trillian; where confidential information belonging to Eskom was leaked to Trillian; where senior personnel of Eskom, who were expected to display the utmost good faith and act in the interests of Eskom; where there appears to be a corrupt relationship between Eskom’s senior personnel and the directors of Trillian, justice and equity demand nothing less than the moneys paid to Trillian unjustifiably, be returned to Eskom,” the judgment reads.

Gupta associate Salim Essa was a 60% shareholder in Trillian at the time that the contracts were signed. He sold his stake in July 2017, leaving MD Eric Wood as a 85% shareholder with the remainder owned by management and staff.