Former Eskom bosses Abram Masango and France Hlakudi appeared alongside businessmen Antonio Jose Trindade and Hudson Kgomoeswana in the Palm Ridge Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Tuesday on fraud and corruption charges regarding R30-million in kickbacks allegedly paid for ensuring Tubular Construction Projects (TCP) won a contract at Kusile Power Station worth R1.2-billion.
The indictment details how Masango, former Eskom group head of capital, and Hlakudi, a former senior manager in Eskom’s group capital division, fraudulently pushed for TCP to be awarded a R745-million contract, signed in April 2016, to build air-cooled condensers at Kusile.
The original price was deliberately understated and it ballooned to R1.2-billion after Eskom approved a modification to the project. Masango and Hlakudi both had oversight of contracts in the Kusile build.
TCP’s Trindade, a company director at the time, and Michael Lomas, TCP executive advisor and then chairman, are alleged to have paid Masango and Hlakudi through various channels, including Kgomoeswana’s Babinatlou Business Services.
Seven companies have been charged in the case, which has been postponed multiple times since first coming to court in December 2019, including Hlakudi’s businesses Hlakudi Translation and Interpretation and Bon Service Telekom.
The indictment details how TCP and its bosses Trindade and Lomas, or their subsidiaries, paid Babinatlou and Hlakudi’s companies at each step of the Eskom deal with TCP.
For example, on 19 October 2016, Trindade’s company Abeyla Trading deposited over R1-million into the account of Hlakudi’s translation business, one of many deposits from various characters involved in the TCP contract. The next day, Hlakudi made a cash withdrawal of R2.5-million from his company’s account, according to the indictment.
The benefits Masango derived are less clear, but on 28 October 2015, Abeyla Trading is alleged to have paid R645,000 to Trindade’s bank account. On the same day, Trindade transferred that same amount to another account and it went towards the purchase of a home bought by Phushaza Trust, of which Masango is the founder, trustee and beneficiary.
Lomas did not appear in court on Tuesday.
“Michael Lomas, former board chairperson of Tubular Construction is currently living in the United Kingdom and the Investigating Directorate is currently busy with the extradition request,” said the NPA’s Investigating Directorate in a statement.
When the suspects appeared in court in May, prosecutors said the extradition request had been interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the indictment, Lomas paid over R1.9-million towards Hlakudi’s businesses’ accounts.
The case has been postponed to 23 February 2021.
“This is to allow the defence an opportunity to consult with their clients, pursuant to the disclosure of the contents of the case docket,” said the Investigating Directorate statement.
The accused have indicated they will plead not guilty to the charges. DM