An AmaBhungane and Scorpio expose has revealed how President Zuma’s friends and their associates are diverting billions of Rands from Transnet’s purchase of locomotives into various offshore accounts.

It is reported that South Africa needed a fleet of locomotives, and Transnet, South Africa’s state-owned freight operator, went out and bought 1 064 of them. It appears that various other people inserted themselves in the process including Salim Essa, a chief lieutenant of the Guptas, and Sahara CEO, Ashu Chawla.

“They form only a tiny part of the overall narrative of what is actually happening. Over the tens of thousands of mails that are being weighted through by reporters, media houses and investigative journalists, what lies at the heart of the locomotive kickbacks in terms of the Gupta family and the associates, is money. Lots and Lots of money,” said investigative journalist, Craig Macon, amaBhungane.

Essa is said to have signed a lucrative agreement with Chinese suppliers, China South Rail (CSR), the mainland-based rolling stock manufacturer that had won the biggest share of “Project 359” – a 1 064 locomotives deal that Transnet had awarded to four suppliers in March 2014.

“Some of the terms on these deals suggest that the contracts are a farce and are really corruption that is masked as providing “advisory services”. A firm named CSR (Hong Kong) Co, which is a subsidiary of CSR had approached another called Tequesta Group to “provide advisory services” for “Project 359” in South Africa.

Tequesta, represented by Essa, had “a familiarity with [the] regulatory, social, cultural and political framework” in South Africa and could give the necessary assistance.

The agreement says, for every locomotive that South Africa buys from the Chinese, Salim Essa’s company will get R10 million – that is R10 million of a R50 million locomotive. That comes up to R3 billion. Include a few other deals on the other locomotives and that comes up to 5.8billion. The funds would then be sent to an offshore company.

“The link to the Gupta’s is very much implicit,” said Macoon. “These email chains are regularly copied from one ‘lieutenant’ to another ‘lieutenant’, to Tony Gupta, to Atul Gupta.”

It is a network of companies where people have official positions, but all of the email chains end up with Tony Gupta. Chawla seems to act as the biggest mediator and confidant to the Gupta’s and their networks,” concluded Macon.

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