01 June 2023 | 04:01 AM

Crime watchdog shines light on the man the PIC entrusted with R1bn

Key Takeaways

Last week amaBhungane and the Mail & Guardian revealed how the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) put almost R1-billion into a Mozambican palm oil refinery after being “introduced” to the deal by former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene’s son.

Our story showed that the son, Siyabonga, did not get shares as intended – but that the PIC paid R18.5-million into an offshore account controlled by his business partner, and helped the partner negotiate a $3.3-million (about R50-million now) settlement to walk away from the deal.

Now researchers from the Global Initiative, a group that looks at transnational organised crime and strategies to counter it, say in an opinion article that they first heard about Momade Rassul, the man from whom the PIC bought 70% of the refinery, “when researching the heroin route that traverses several countries along Africa’s East Coast”.

They conclude: “Although little has been documented about Rassul in the press, it would not have taken much digging by the PIC to find out that Rassul and his associates are widely considered to be key players in the illicit economy in the north of Mozambique.

“This is the kind of legwork investors need to do if they are going to avoid playing a part in propping up men who have made their money in questionable ways.”

Read their full article here.

Last week, we asked the PIC to respond to allegations about Rassul, the drug trade and a large consignment of motorcycles that went up in flames at the refinery site. Rumour had it that the bikes had been used to smuggle heroin.

The PIC answered: The PIC’s due diligence process did uncover that one of the warehouses had been destroyed by fire at the time our first site visit. The PIC inquired of the reasons for the burnt building and the sponsor provided an explanation.

“At the time of concluding the transaction, the PIC was satisfied with the outcomes of its due diligence, including the proposed mitigations to risks identified.”

Rassul has not responded to questions.

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Caroline James

Caroline joined amaBhungane in 2022. As a lawyer Caroline’s interests are in freedom of expression, access to information and state accountability and has sought to weave those interests together in her work and academic study. She has BA (Honours) and LLB degrees from Wits University and an MA from Queen’s University in Canada where her thesis was on inconsistent global standards on accountability for corruption. Caroline has worked at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre and Corruption Watch and consulted for the Open Contracting Partnership.

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