Takealot guilty of “fake” prices

The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) has found Takealot guilty of selling products at higher prices than what it advertises the goods for.

In a recent sponsored Facebook promotion, Takealot advertised DKNY perfume at R369 – a saving of 62% on the normal price.

When a consumer tried to purchase this product, however, they had to pay over R200 more than the advertised price.

A complaint was lodged with the ASA regarding this practice after Takealot told the client it was “not responsible for advertising appearing on third-party platforms”.

According to the complainant, Takealot told her “its terms and conditions exempt it from liability emanating from its own advertising”.

Takealot responds
Takealot responded to the complaint, stating it is not an ASA member and that the organisation’s rulings are therefore not binding to it.

The online retailer did acknowledge that this was the third complaint of this type brought to the ASA.

It explained there “may be lags in bringing the pricing of third-party advertisers in line with price changes”.

“The product on special had sold out when the complainant claimed the deal, but the advertising had not been changed,” said Takealot.

ASA ruling
The ASA rejected Takealot’s argument that it was not responsible for advertisements from third-party advertisers.

“If Takealot uses third-party advertisers, then it must ensure that checks and balances are in place that such advertisers only display correct information,” said the ASA.

“The reality is that Takealot benefits from the traffic flow to its website and it must take responsibility for the actions of the third-party advertiser.”

The ASA subsequently rejected Takealot’s submission that its advertising is not misleading.

It said consumers are led to believe that advertised products at the discounted rates are available on Takealot, which they are not.

The complaint that Takealot’s advertisement promising a discounted price was misleading was upheld, and it advised the company not to repeat this advertising.

Source: MyBroadband 

A cyberattack caused the Internet disruptions during the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony on Friday night, Olympic officials and security experts said.

Jihye Lee, a spokesman for the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee, confirmed Sunday that “the technology issues experienced Friday night were caused by a cyberattack.”

Mr. Lee did not elaborate on the cause but said that the attack had been quickly addressed and that systems had been stabilized by Sunday.

The cyberattack took out internet access and telecasts, grounded broadcasters’ drones, shut down the Pyeongchang 2018 website, and prevented spectators from printing out reservations and attending the ceremony, which resulted in an unusually high number of empty seats.

Security experts said they had uncovered evidence that the attack had been in the works since late last year. It was directed at the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee and incorporated code that was specifically designed to disrupt the Games or perhaps even send a political message.

“This attacker had no intention of leaving the machine usable,” a team of researchers at Cisco’s Talos threat intelligence division wrote in an analysis Monday. “The purpose of this malware is to perform destruction of the host” and “leave the computer system offline.”

In an interview, Talos researchers noted that there was a nuance to the attack that they had not seen before: Even though the hackers clearly demonstrated that they had the ability to destroy victims’ computers, they stopped short of doing so. They erased only backup files on Windows machines and left open the possibility that responders could still reboot the computers and fix the damage.

“Why did they pull their punch?” asked Craig Williams, a senior technical leader at Talos. “Presumably, it’s making some political message” that they could have done far worse, he said.

Talos’s findings matched those of other internet security companies, like CrowdStrike, which determined on Monday that the attacks had been in the works since at least December. Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at CrowdStrike, said his team had discovered time stamps that showed the destructive payload that hit the opening ceremony was constructed on Dec. 27 at 11:39 a.m. Coordinated Universal Time — which converts to 6:39 a.m. Eastern Time, 2:39 p.m. in Moscow and 8:39 p.m. in South Korea.

Attackers clearly had a target in mind: The word Pyeongchang2018.com was hard-coded into their payload, as was a set of stolen credentials belonging to Pyeongchang Olympic officials. Those stolen credentials allowed attackers to spread their malware throughout the computer networks that support the Winter Games on Friday, just as the opening ceremony was timed to begin.

Security companies would not say definitively who was behind the attack, but some digital crumbs led to a familiar culprit: Fancy Bear, the Russian hacking group with ties to Russian intelligence services. Fancy Bear was determined to be the more brazen of the two Russian hacking groups behind an attack on the Democratic National Committee ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Beginning in November, CrowdStrike’s intelligence team witnessed Fancy Bear attacks that stole credentials from an international sports organization, Mr. Meyers said. He declined to identify the victim but suggested that the credential thefts were similar to the ones that hackers would have needed before their opening ceremony attack.

On Wednesday, two days before the ceremony, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs made an apparent attempt to pre-empt any accusations of Russian cyberattacks on the Games. In a statement, released in English, German and Russian, the agency accused Western governments, press and information security companies of waging an “information war” accusing Russia of “alleged cyber interference” and “planning to attack the ideals of the Olympic movement.”

This was not the first Olympic opening ceremony that was a target for hackers. In the lead-up to the 2012 London Games, investigators uncovered attack tools and the blueprints to the Olympic stadium’s building management systems on a hacker’s computer.

It appeared that hackers planned to take out the power to the stadium, said Oliver Hoare, who led cybersecurity matters for the London Games. But officials successfully prevented an attack.

By Nicole Perlroth for The New York Times

PC distributor Mustek is assisting the City of Johannesburg (COJ) in a case where the city paid R6-million for 500 desktop computers to a service provider but the PCs were never delivered to the municipality.

In a statement, COJ mayor Herman Mashaba says he was informed that the city paid R6 million for 500 desktop computers that were ordered by the Group Information Communication Technology (GICT) department in 2014 but they were never delivered.

Opposition party the Democratic Alliance took over COJ from the ANC in August 2016. Mashaba, who took over the reins from the ANC’s Parks Tau, has publicly announced he intends to rid the city of corruption, which he blames on the previous administration.

Tip-off

According to Mashaba, the Group Forensic and Investigation Service (GFIS) received a tip-off from a member of the public who is closely linked to the service provider, saying that while she was working at the company, the city placed an order for 500 desktop computers.

It’s not clear which desktop PCs the city purchased but at retailer Incredible Connection, they range from R5 000 to R18 000. In the R6 million deal, the city paid R12 000 per computer.

Mashaba explains the computers were paid for with the assistance of officials working for the city but never reached the city.

The service provider, which is based in the south of Johannesburg, provides office supplies such as desktop computers, laptops, printer cartridges and toners, to name a few, he says.

A search and seizure operation was conducted this week by the members of the Hawks and officials from GFIS at the offices of the service provider.

Mashaba explains that about 37 computers worth R750 000 belonging to the city were seized during a joint operation.

He explains it is alleged that after winning the tender to supply the computers, the service provider placed an order with PC distributor Mustek to do the city’s imaging on the computers.

This was standard procedure, says Mashaba. “But with this batch, it is alleged that when he received it from Mustek, the service provider and his specialists in the information technology filed to remove the city’s imaging. Serial numbers of the seized computers were removed.”

In a statement sent to ITWeb, Mustek says: “In terms of Mustek’s distribution model, Mustek on-sells its products to its approved dealers, who then on-sell to end-users and public sector customers.

“Accordingly, we cannot comment on what transpired between the service provider and the City of Johannesburg. However, we are assisting the City of Johannesburg with their investigation of this matter.”

Preliminary investigations
It is alleged that most of the computers were sold to other clients and the 37 seized were used by the service provider’s staff members, Mashaba says.

He points out that preliminary investigations into the matter revealed that a city official was paid R1 million by the service provider for securing the deal for it. The city official allegedly took one official working for the service provider to a shop in the south which sells building material and spent R30 000 as a token of appreciation to the official, he adds.

“I was also informed that the service provider colludes with one of our officials who steals printer cartridges from our stores and sells them to the service provider who then sells it back to the city. When the team arrived at the property, they found one employee removing serial numbers from the boxes of the cartridges which had names of other municipalities and government departments.”

The team also established that the service provider illegally connected electricity supply to the property. City Power officials were called in and they removed the meter.

“The GFIS is currently conducting a number of investigations into contracts entered with ICT suppliers. I want to eliminate corrupt elements throughout the city, including investigating illicit deals and contracts that were secured by the previous administration and this includes our technology space,” concludes Mashaba.

By Admire Moyo for ITWeb 

Hawks raid Saxonwold, ‘arrest’ a Gupta

The Hawks – also known as the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation – on Wednesday morning swooped in on the Gupta family home in Saxonwold, where they reportedly arrested one of the brothers and an associate.

Two other people are reportedly negotiating a handover.

ENCA is reporting that one Gupta brother and an associate have been arrested, but Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said it was “just speculation”.

He said the Hawks had “concluded that operation” and were moving on to other addresses to continue their probe.

Mulaudzi said the raid was part of an investigation into allegations of influence peddling in the government.

“We’re viewing this investigation in a very serious light. We’re not playing around in terms of making sure that those who are responsible in the so-called state capture, they take responsibility for it,” Mulaudzi said.

He declined to give details of what was seized or if the business premises of the Guptas would also be raided, saying a full statement would be released later on Wednesday.

The Guptas have a close relationship with President Jacob Zuma and his family.

The raid comes amid a probe into allegations that the family used their links with the president to win state contracts and influence Cabinet appointments.

The raid on the family home of the Guptas comes a day after the ANC ordered Zuma to step down as head of state after nine years in office dogged by scandal and a stagnant economy.

Zuma and the Guptas – a family of wealthy Indian-born businessmen – deny any wrongdoing.

A lawyer for the Gupta family said he could not comment on the raid because he had yet to see the search warrant.

On Wednesday morning a dozen heavily armed tactical police blocked off a street leading to the Gupta home in Saxonwold. A police officer told Reuters: “This is a crime scene.”

Two cars of the elite police unit were seen parked outside the mega homestead.

A group of officers, some in police gear, later emerged from the home. They drove off without addressing a throng of journalists camped outside the house.

The home remained guarded by private security guards. Clad in black, they were seen opening a gate for a car that drove in.

The Saxonwold home has over the years also garnered its own controversy.

Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela pinpointed it as a venue for various dodgy meetings between members of the Gupta family and government officials.

By Ed Cropley, Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and ANA for IOL

 

Update: President Jacob Zuma resigned with immediate effect on Wednesday evening, one hour before his deadline was up.  There is, however, still the matter of making official the appointment of Cyril Ramaphosa as the president of the republic.

Although the ANC has recalled President Jacob Zuma, it was still insisting on Tuesday that he had done nothing wrong.

Speaker after speaker at Monday night’s special national executive committee (NEC) meeting said Zuma should go for a range of reasons, central to which was the ANC’s electoral performance and the effect that his remaining head of state could have on the party.

On Tuesday, the net continued to tighten around Zuma.

The ANC said it was waiting for his response on Wednesday. Should he refuse to resign, the ANC said it would be forced to remove him in Parliament.

Zuma is expected to address the nation on Wednesday. The Presidency could, however, not be reached to confirm this.

As the ANC notified him formally of its decision to recall him, National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams gave the prosecution team dealing with Zuma’s corruption, fraud and racketeering charges until February 23 to provide their recommendations. This was after Zuma made fresh representations in January on why he should not be prosecuted. If Zuma declines the ANC offer to let him resign it will pave the way for his removal through a motion of no confidence.

In the past eight motions of no confidence against him, the ANC stuck to the party line that he should not be removed. It was only in the last motion that some of the party’s MPs voted differently in a secret ballot vote.

The party line this time will be that Zuma must go.

Business Day understands that the NEC has given the ANC caucus in the National Assembly the task of devising a strategy for his removal should he refuse to heed the recall.

The ANC chief whip has been instructed to brief the caucus, which is expected to meet on Wednesday morning while the ANC awaits a “response” from Zuma on the unanimous NEC decision to recall him. A cabinet meeting scheduled for Wednesday has been postponed.

While ANC secretary- general Ace Magashule told journalists that there was no decision on a motion of no confidence in Parliament, it is understood that the NEC agreed that should Zuma fail to resign Parliamentary processes would kick in.

Immediately after the ANC’s briefing, the rand weakened from R11.92 to the dollar to R11.98. Analysts said there was concern in the market that Zuma had not been given a deadline by which to resign. At 6.30pm on Tuesday, the rand firmed marginally against the dollar, to R11.96. Before Magashule’s announcement it had reached a best intraday level of R11.87.

According to sources who took part in the NEC meeting, which started at 2pm on Monday afternoon and dragged on into the early hours of Tuesday, the possibility of court action against the recall was also raised. This emerged amid reports that Transform SA — a Zuma-aligned lobby group — had launched a legal bid to challenge the outcome of the NEC meeting.

According to senior ANC leaders, Zuma was “very angry” and may not resign voluntarily.

Magashule confirmed that the NEC had rejected Zuma’s request for a further three months in office to “introduce” incoming president Cyril Ramaphosa to international bodies such as Brics and the Southern African Development Community. It is understood that even those who were seen to be staunch supporters of Zuma’s have indicated that it is time for him to go.

Zuma’s preferred candidate for the presidency, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, while diplomatic about the matter, indicated at the NEC meeting that Zuma could not see his term out or deliver the state of the nation address.

When asked for the NEC’s reasons for recalling Zuma and whether it related to allegations of state capture, Magashule was emphatic, saying the president had not been found guilty of any wrongdoing.

Magashule said the reason for the recalled was that the party wanted Ramaphosa in the position of president and for him to deliver the state of the nation address. Magashule said that when a deployee of the ANC was recalled the party expected that person to comply.

For now, the ANC was giving Zuma “time and space”.

Magashule said Zuma was a “disciplined member” and he believed that the president would make the right decision, but again pleaded for time.

“The national executive committee firmly believes that this situation requires us to act with urgency in order to steer our country towards greater levels of unity, renewal and hope.

“We are determined to restore the integrity of the public institutions, create political stability and urgent economic recovery,” Magashule said.

By Natasha Marrian and Genevieve Quintal for Business Live

Gupta bank exits SA

With the state-capture inquiry about to kick off, the Bank of Baroda announced on Monday it was shutting down its South African branches.

The instruction is said to have come from the bank’s headquarters in India.

The bank, which provided banking services to the Gupta family when other banks would not, said its parent company was “rationalising” branches in international markets.

There was speculation at the weekend that it would exit SA.

Baroda said it would stop taking new deposits from March and cease operations altogether at the end of March.

The South African Reserve Bank said the registrar of banks was in talks with Baroda to ensure its orderly withdrawal to protect depositors. The bank had R2.6bn in deposits at the end of December, according to regulatory filings.

Manoj Kumar Jha, the bank’s South African acting CEO, declined to comment.

The latest developments come after the bank became ensnared in state-capture allegations through its association with the Gupta family, its companies and associates.

Baroda faced the possibility of closure arising from a directive the Bank issued after it fined Baroda R10m for breaching sections of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act.

Baroda was named in former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s 2016 report on state capture, which directed President Jacob Zuma to appoint a commission of inquiry to investigate whether any official or organ of state had acted unlawfully, improperly or corruptly by giving financing facilities to companies linked to the Gupta family. This included a R659.5m prepayment that Eskom made to Tegeta Exploration & Resources to acquire the Optimum mine that supplied coal to Eskom.

Baroda is to be investigated for its role in facilitating the transaction and its handling of funds belonging to Optimum’s mine-rehabilitation fund.

After a lengthy legal battle and a ruling by the High Court in Pretoria, Zuma finally appointed Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo in January to head the state-capture inquiry.

The National Prosecuting Authority’s asset-forfeiture unit froze more than R110m in deposits held at Baroda, which it said were proceeds of crime related to the controversial Vrede dairy-farm project in the Free State — meant to empower poor community members.

According to the asset-forfeiture unit, the R110m was part of R220.2m paid by the Free State agriculture department to Estina, a company associated with Atul Gupta, for the project.

Very little of this money was used for its intended purpose. Some funds found their way to Atul Gupta’s niece Vega’s blockbuster wedding at Sun City, while other funds went to vehicle dealers and other entities belonging to the Gupta family.

Attempts to reach Eugene Nel, the curator who was appointed by the court on behalf of the asset-forfeiture unit, were unsuccessful.

By Moyagabo Maake for Business Live

Charges will be laid against 31 City of Johannesburg officials implicated in an alleged kickback scandal involving a Johannesburg stationery provider, Mayor Herman Mashaba said in a statement on Wednesday.

“This morning, I received shocking news that 31 city officials allegedly received about R2.7m in kickbacks from a single service provider registered on the city’s and municipal-owned entities (MOEs) database,” said Mashaba.

The company, in the south of Johannesburg, supplied office stationery and equipment including desktop computers, laptops, printer cartridges and toners worth around R20m.

The implicated officials work in various departments within the city, Johannesburg Water, Johannesburg City Parks, Joburg Property Company, Johannesburg Roads Agency and Pikitup.

One official allegedly made R1m from one transaction, and another allegedly got R685 000 in a toner transaction.

The method was allegedly to inflate quotes to include their cut. This was collected via their payment method of choice which included Shoprite money transfers, First National Bank e-wallet payments, cash payments and transfers to individual accounts.

City to lay charges

“In some instances the goods were ordered and not delivered but they were paid for,” the mayor continued.

He said the Hawks, working with the city’s group forensic and investigation services department and the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department, seized documents on Tuesday night after a raid was conducted at the company’s offices.

The company also conducts business with other municipalities where officials are also paid a certain fee for giving them business, the mayor alleged.

“I am disappointed to learn that there are still people in the system who are still involved or engaged in corrupt activities and colluding with service providers. This is despite the fact that we continuously educate employees about fraud and corruption,” he said.

Mashaba said the city would lay charges against the employees and the company.

Comment from the Hawks on the raid or what would happen to the stationery company was not immediately available.

By Jenni Evans for News24
Image: supplied by City of Johannesburg

 

British man in Bitcoin heist

Armed robbers broke into the family home of a city financier turned Bitcoin trader and forced him to transfer the digital currency at gunpoint, in what is believed to be the first heist of its kind in the UK.

Four robbers in balaclavas forced their way into the home of Danny Aston, 30, who runs a digital currency trading firm, before reportedly tying up a woman and forcing Mr Aston to transfer an unknown quantity of the cryptocurrency.

Mr Aston lives in the picturesque village of Moulsford in South Oxfordshire, where episodes of Midsomer Murders have been filmed, in a rented four-bedroom converted barn estimated to be worth at least £700,000 on a private drive.

Police were called at around 9.40am on Monday to attend the home after raiders are reported to have entered the property by kicking down the door.

The Mail on Sunday reported that the men tied up a woman and kept a baby outside in a pram while forcing Mr Aston to transfer the Bitcoin. The value of a single Bitcoin is now around £8,000.

A neighbour confirmed on Sunday the property where the violent burglary took place, but said that Mr Aston and a woman believed to be his partner left Moulsford on Monday to stay with relatives and have not returned.

They said: “I was not here at the time, but I know the couple have left and are staying with relatives, they haven’t been back since.

“We are all obviously a bit shaken up, even though a few days have passed now. It is not what you expect to happen around here.”

Mr Aston – who lives with his 31-year-old business partner Amy Jay, according to the latest Companies House records – previously worked at Trayport, a London-based financial software company that operates a platform for trading energy commodities.

In June 2017, he established his own digital currency firm just before Bitcoin’s huge surge in value in July, according to Companies House.

Both Mr Aston and Ms Jay are listed online as directors of Aston Digital Currencies Ltd, and a company called Butler Hosting, which specialises in “data processing, hosting and related activities”.

A user named Danny Aston has previously been active on trading site Poloniex, which allows users to trade and store digital currency.

A local resident described the victim of the attack as well-known, but suggested that the small village community had been left dazed by the news.

“Everyone is shocked I think,” he said. “We think we live in a safer space, and then this happens and everyone gets scared.”

The village of Moulsford is home to two schools and a girl from Cranford House Prepatory School described how the students were told to get to safety as the armed robbery happened nearby.

She said: “We were all told to get down on the floor and stay in the middle of the schoolroom. All the curtains were closed and the doors locked. No-one knew what was going on but it was scary to say the least.”

Bitcoin is a digital currency that allows users to trade anonymously and securely across the internet without regulation or a central bank

It is understood that although Bitcoin’s secrecy will make the theft in Moulsford much more difficult for the police to investigate, there is a chance that the stolen currency will appear on the market as thieves try to exchange it into conventional money.

In the last 12 months, Bitcoin’s value has risen over 1000 per cent. It hit an all-time high on 17th December, when it was worth over £13,500.

A police spokesman said: “Thames Valley Police is investigating an aggravated burglary which occurred at a property in Moulsford on Monday.

“Officers were called at about 9.40am to a report that offenders had entered a residential property off Reading Road and threatened the occupants. No one was seriously injured during the incident.

“An investigation into the incident is underway and officers attended nearby Moulsford School as a precautionary measure. It is not believed there was a threat to anyone at the school.

“Officers are particularly interested in speaking to anyone travelling through the village on the A329 Reading Road between 7.30am and 10.30am on Monday who has Dashcam footage or anyone with mobile phone footage.

“People in the local community may notice an increased presence of officers in the area while our enquiries are ongoing. The investigation is in its early stages however initial enquiries suggest this may be a targeted incident.

“No arrests have been made at this stage.”

By Tony Diver for The Telegraph 

On Tuesday morning, a financial research group called Viceroy released a report looking into the business model and practices of South African lender Capitec. It is damning in the extreme, accusing Capitec of “predatory finance” and massively overstating its performance and value. Capitec will collapse, says Viceroy, unless it is placed under curatorship by the authorities. Here’s what you need to know so far.

What is Capitec?

It’s a South African micro-finance provider which does business mainly with low-income South African consumers. It has been garlanded with awards for its innovative practices and high share prices.

What is Viceroy?

Good question, because until a few months ago few people in South Africa had heard of them. Viceroy is a financial research outfit consisting of three people working between New York and Australia. Viceroy is a deliberately low-profile company with a WordPress website, on which it describes itself as “a group of individuals that see the world differently”.

Viceroy started releasing reports on big companies in 2016, but only attracted South African interest after publishing a report exposing Steinhoff a day after the company admitted accounting irregularities. Now Viceroy has gone in guns blazing for Capitec.

So they’re like a financial version of activist group Anonymous?

That might be pushing it, because there is speculation that Viceroy also shorts stocks on the basis of its information. There is definitely a financial motive to their research as well as an altruistic dimension. Earlier this month, they told Fin24 that they had made donations to South African charities after the Steinhoff exposure, and claimed: “Our ethos is protecting consumers, investors and integrity by making sure all the facts are known.”

What does Viceroy have to say about Capitec?

Nothing flattering. In a 33-page report released on Tuesday morning, Viceroy says that its analysis of Capitec’s reports, study of legal papers and interviews carried out with former Capitec clients and employees reveals a South African enterprise engaging in “predatory finance”.

Capitec is preying upon low-income South Africans, Viceroy suggests, by offering instantly accessible credit via ATMs to people. Customers can be charged interest rates of 155% on a single loan. Viceroy has also obtained affidavits from clients who say that when their first loans with Capitec became too big, Capitec granted them further loans – which clients could not afford – to repay the first loan.

In effect, Viceroy charges that Capitec is acting like a snazzier version of a backstreet loan shark.

Why would Capitec offer loans to people who can’t afford them?

That’s the question which cuts to the heart of the micro-finance industry in South Africa. In Capitec’s case, Viceroy claims that the lender took home more than 20% of its 2017 earnings in loan fees. Viceroy says that Capitec also concealed the extent of its unpaid loans by constantly issuing new loans to refinance the old ones.

Are Viceroy’s claims true?

That remains to be seen. Its Steinhoff report was “hailed as highly professional and accurate”, according to Moneyweb.

The South African Reserve Bank, however, told Fin24 on Tuesday morning that according to the information SARB has at its disposal, Capitec is “solvent, well capitalised and has adequate liquidity”.

What does Capitec have to say for itself?

Its sole public statement on the matter at time of writing had been via social media. Capitec tweeted on Tuesday morning that it had “taken note” of the report. “We are currently in the process of investigating the report in detail and will respond immediately,” it said.

In a hastily sent-off memo to shareholders, however, Capitec was conceding nothing. It described the Viceroy report as “filled with factual errors, material omissions in respect of legal proceedings against Capitec and opinions that are not supported by accurate information”.

By Rebecca Davis for The Daily Maverick

The Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) is hoping to seize at least R50bn in 17 cases it is currently investigating related to state capture, acting head of operations advocate Knorx Molelle said on Tuesday.

In an interview with eNCA, Molelle said his team had already prioritised six matters which were before the courts, awaiting preservation orders.

“The matters are before the court and hopefully in the next couple of weeks we will have court orders,” he said.

The AFU has already taken action against two Gupta-linked companies – Trillian and McKinsey – hoping to recoup R1.6bn in assets related to consultancy work done by the companies for Eskom and Transnet.

Through their engagements, Trillian had indicated a willingness to co-operate, Molelle said.

“We are quite confident that, in the next day or two, we would have recovered the funds that have been taken away.”

Assets would only be attached as a last resort, he said.

“If there is willingness with those that we are dealing with that they are prepared to make good, the actual physical removal will be a last resort.

“An engagement that we having is absolutely critical. We are sitting and resting with the comfort that should that not bare any fruits, we also identified the relevant assets from which we can recover.”

Mollelle said the matter should be finalised within the next two days.

The AFU was investigating six other matters in which they were hoping to recoup money in the current financial year, he added.

‘We are working at our utmost best’

The money would be deposited into the Criminal Asset Recovery account and reinvested into fighting crime or to the state, where needed.

Acting head of the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit, advocate Malini Govender, could not clearly say when individuals would be prosecuted in cases related to state capture, only commenting that it was a complicated matter that needed time for thorough investigation.

“We have only been dealing with this since March, so you cannot expect that in a month or two months we are going to take something to court. We are working at our utmost best and hardest in ensuring there is sufficient traction to get this matter to court,” she said.

The NPA – together with National Treasury, the Financial Intelligence Centre, the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission and the AFU – had an 18-man team dedicated to the “eight legged” state capture investigations, she added.

Seven of the investigation’s “legs” came from former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into state capture, while the eighth stemmed from a separate complaint.

Both officials denied any interference by the National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams.

“At no stage did he give any instruction that we do not proceed. In fact, at some stage he was… anxious at what he perceived to be a slow pace,” Molelle said.

14 Gupta-linked companies and individuals to have their assets frozen

At least 14 people and entities linked to the alleged corruption by Gupta-linked company Trillian and international consultancy firm McKinsey have been identified in a preservation order obtained by the Asset Forfeiture Unit.

The AFU is going after the big shots at Trillian and McKinsey. The people named in the court order include Eric Wood, who is Trillian CEO; Trillain CFO Tebogo Leballo; Prakash Parbhoo, a partner at McKinsey; and Jean Pierre Goerges Desvaux, who is a senior partner and managing partner at McKinsey.

The court order also identifies Trillian property in the high-end business precinct Melrose Arch in Johannesburg.

Others named in the order include: Veronica Magwentshu, Thabiso Legoete, Johannes Faure, Daniel Roy, Trillian Capital Partners, Trillian Finanical Advisory, Trillian Management Consulting, Trillian Properties, Trillian Securities, McKinsey and Company Africa, and “any other person who becomes known to the applicant as having an interest in the property.

By Lizeka Tandwa and Mahlatse Mahlase for News24

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