Eric Wood, the Chief Executive Officer of the little Gupta company, Trillian Capital Partners, has escaped prosecution on a R17-million money laundering case emanating from an alleged Transnet kick-back scandal.
The National Prosecuting Authority has confirmed that it has declined to prosecute Eric Wood over payments to the Gupta-owned The New Age newspaper in 2015 on the grounds that it considered the matter to be “a civil case”.
The money laundering case against Wood was opened by his former business partners at Regiments Capital in November 2016 following revelations of an alleged kick-back scandal involving a company that had been subcontracted for a CCTV deal at Transnet.
His then partners, Litha Nyhonyha and Niven Pillay, in court papers, accused Wood of abusing his senior position at Regiments to channel payments through the company’s bank accounts that ultimately landed up with the Guptas.
They claimed that emails and documents unearthed after Wood had left Regiments showed how he allegedly had three fake invoices concocted to falsely create the impression that Regiments had rendered services to Technology & Procurement Holdings (TechPro) at Transnet.
This allowed for Techpro to pay a total of R15-million plus Vat to Regiments.
Once the cash was with Regiments, a Gupta lieutenant, Ashok Narayan forwarded invoices for matching amounts to Wood at Regiments to allow for the money to be paid to the ultimate recipient, The New Age, then owned by the Guptas.
Wood, during those legal proceedings denied the money laundering allegations, saying they were “false and defamatory” and provided his own account for why the payments were made. His version included the fact that Narayan was a known consultant to Regiments at the time and that work had been done for Techpro through an agreement belatedly signed in June 2015 whereas the work had actually commenced after January of that year.
Read amaBhungane’s expose here
While the NPA’s decision not to prosecute may raise eyebrows in some quarters, Wood was unaware of this when contacted by Daily Maverick.
In a written response to questions, Trillian said that “Mr Wood reiterates that this case is without merit and was simply brought as a device by Regiments in an attempt to enhance Regiments’ position against him in ongoing civil disputes”.
Wood was one of three directors of Regiments until early 2016 when he left to establish Trillian in partnership with Gupta kingpin, Salim Essa who held a 60% stake in the company until mid-2017.
He and his former Regiments partners have been embroiled in a legal war since the State Capture scandal erupted.
In court papers filed in one of those matters, Nyhonyha and Pillay claimed that Wood had allegedly hijacked lucrative deals from their company to boost Trillian’s infancy as a financial advisory company.
A significant element of the clash, his partners claimed, stemmed from their refusal in 2015 to allow a Gupta buyout of their company, a move that Wood allegedly favoured at the time.
Trillian has since been significantly crippled by revelations of the company’s Gupta ties and allegations that it received payments from state-owned companies, Transnet and Eskom in instances where there were no contracts in place, or where no work had been done.
The NPA’s decision comes on the back of a High Court preservation order obtained by the Asset Forfeiture Unit against the company lapsing this week.
The AFU landed the order in December as part of efforts to recover nearly R1.6-billion that Trillian and global consultancy, McKinsey & Co, were allegedly irregularly paid by Eskom.
While the NPA brought a forfeiture application on 24 May – in time to prevent the order against McKinsey from lapsing – the order in respect of Trillian was allowed to lapse for unknown reasons. DM
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