On Monday, Eskom came out swinging. With the Special Investigating Unit, it filed a R3.8-billion claim, alleging that former Eskom bosses conspired with the Guptas over a six-year period to exploit state-owned entities for the latter’s benefit.
The 73-page summons, released today, paints a picture of how former executives including chief executive Brian Molefe, chief financial officer Anoj Singh and head of generation Matshela Koko, as well as former board chair Ben Ngubane used their positions to direct business and financial benefits towards Gupta companies.
Also included as an alleged conspirator is Mosebenzi Zwane, the former mineral resources minister and now an ANC MP.
Although many parts of the Gupta saga are included in the summons, the main allegations emanate from the take-over of Optimum Coal Holdings, the struggling group of coal mines owned by Glencore. This is where Zwane allegedly played a key role.
Eskom alleges that the conspirators strong-armed Glencore into selling Optimum, and then effectively financed the acquisition by providing guarantees and prepayments to the Gupta-controlled buyer, Tegeta Exploration and Resources.
Once Tegeta was in control of the mine, Eskom heaped further benefits on the Guptas by allowing Tegeta to under-deliver on its loss-making coal contract at Hendrina Power Station – which freed up that coal to be sold at a higher price elsewhere. Eskom now alleges that it had to spend R2.4-billion to source coal for Hendrina from other suppliers.
Another significant part of the claim – R722-million – is the difference between Optimum’s historical penalty that Tegeta inherited when it bought the mine, and the sweetheart settlement negotiated with the new politically-connected owners.
Also included in the claim is the R595-million that Eskom tried but failed to recoup from Trillian, Essa’s company which partnered with global consulting giant McKinsey.
There are also smaller amounts attributed to poor quality coal delivered to Hendrina, and R1.2-million spent to put guarantees in place that assisted the Tegeta to seal the deal with Optimum.
There is a lot more though: There are details about how an Eskom board member, Chwayita Mabude, allegedly channelled payments between the Free State government and a Gupta letterbox company, and details about the stream of confidential correspondence leaked by Koko to the anonymous email address “Businessman”, allegedly an alias for Gupta lieutenant Essa.
Eskom, which describes the Gupta brothers and Essa as “fugitives from justice”, says that it will bring an application to attach their assets.
The total R3.8-billion loss that Eskom says it has suffered is claimed jointly and severally from each of 12 defendants: Molefe, Singh, Koko, former Eskom official Suzanne Daniels, Zwane, Ngubane, Mabude, former Eskom director Mark Pamensky, the three Gupta brothers and Essa.
AmaBhungane’s stories over the years have provided the breaks and the background for the present action.
Here are some of them:
*Also read how amaBhungane’s work is contributing to the recovery of billions in state capture loot.