Eskom has launched an attempt to recover cash lost to alleged corruption, which took place in 2015-16.
The South African power generator and the Special Investigating Unit has issued summons at the North Gauteng High Court to recover funds. The company said it aimed to claw back around 3.8 billion rand ($221.7 million).
Eskom is going after former executives and board members, in addition to the Gupta family and their associates. The power company helped the Guptas acquire Optimum Coal Holdings.
The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) has voiced its support of Eskom’s move.
The company is pursuing its former CEO Brian Molefe, CFO Anoj Singh and legal head Suzanne Margaret Daniels. Eskom is also chasing former Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane.
It also named the three Gupta brothers – Rajesh, Atul and Ajay – in addition to their business partner Salim Aziz Essa. The US has put all four on its sanctions list citing corruption concerns.
The former Eskom employees and Guptas acted to “illegally divert funds” from the power company, it said. The Guptas owned a majority in Oakbay Investments and Fidelity Enterprises, which owned a majority stake in Tegeta Resources & Exploration. This controlled Optimum Coal.
Those accused diverted funds illegally from Eskom to help the Guptas and their associates acquire Optimum Coal, which supplies coal to the Hendrina power plant,
the company said.
Optimum Coal was owned by Glencore but ran into financial difficulties. Eskom and the Department of Mineral Resources were named as pressuring the trader to agree to the sale, according to a Parliamentary investigation.
Eskom said it will continue to review other major contracts. Where it discovers evidence of corruption or other irregularities, “Eskom has a moral and legal duty to cancel those contracts, and to recoup any losses it may have suffered as a result of any illegal or irregular activity”.
The power company is also seeking damages from investment company Trillian.
Others accused by the company include former acting group CEO Matshela Moses Koko. It named non-executive directors Baldwin Ben Ngubane, Chwayita Mabude and Mark Vivian Pamensky.
Koko described Eskom’s move as a “horrific blunder and a bad publicity stunt”. Anti-corruption campaigners had mounted a similar attempt in 2017, he said, “which came to naught”.
Law enforcement agencies believe the Guptas and Essa are in Dubai.
Eskom and the SIU’s move is “an essential milestone in the fight against corruption”, the DPE said.
The department plans to work with Eskom, and other state-owned companies, to tackle corruption discovered through the Zondo commission.