South Africa


Trillian’s Eric Wood ‘not a flight risk’, court grants permission to travel abroad

Trillian’s Eric Wood ‘not a flight risk’, court grants permission to travel abroad
Eric Wood appeared in the Specialised Crimes Court in Palm Ridge on Wednesday in a successful bid to have his bail conditions relaxed. (Photo: Supplied)

The State was unsuccessful in preventing Eric Wood, CEO of the defunct Trillian Capital Partners, from having his bail conditions relaxed on Wednesday.

Trillian boss Eric Wood is allowed to travel to Spain and the UK to visit his family this month, after he successfully applied to have his bail conditions relaxed by the Specialised Crimes Court in Palm Ridge on Wednesday.  

The State had opposed Wood’s application to amend his bail conditions, saying there was a risk he would not return to South Africa to stand trial.  

Wood, who has South African and UK citizenship, presented a flight risk and faced a minimum of 15 years in jail if convicted, said the Investigating Directorate (ID) of the National Prosecuting Authority in its efforts to keep him from leaving the country.

Investigating officer Lt-Col Denwill Coetzee argued that Wood had no family ties in South Africa, had “suffered significant reputational damage” and would “benefit significantly” from a fresh start elsewhere.

Magistrate Brian Nemavhidi disagreed, ruling that it was “mere speculation that, if given his passports, he may not return”, TimesLive reported.

Wood was arrested on 27 May 2022, along with former Transnet bigwigs Siyabonga Gama, Garry Pita and Phetolo Ramosebudi, on charges relating to a R93-million payment Transnet made to Trillian in December 2015.

Transnet paid Trillian for organising a R30-billion club loan to help fund the parastatal’s acquisition of 1,064 locomotives. It was allegedly a double payment as Transnet had already paid Wood’s former partners at Regiments Capital for the same services.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Captured — Trillian CEO Wood, Transnet’s Gama among big fish arrested in NPA’s latest State Capture tackle

The accused handed themselves over at the Brackendowns Police Station before appearing in the Palm Ridge Magistrates’ Court, alongside former Trillian executive Daniel Roy and alleged “Gupta fixer” Kuben Moodley, who was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport in September last year, as reported by Daily Maverick’s Jessica Bezuidenhout.

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Initially, on 27 May, the State had not opposed bail, but the court ordered that the accused’s travel documents be handed to the investigating officer, saying travel would be allowed only upon applying to the court. Complying, Wood had surrendered both his South African and British passports to the investigating officer and was released on bail of R250,000.

In July, the matter was postponed until 29 August for further investigations.

On 29 August, former Transnet CEO Brian Molefe and former group chief financial officer Anoj Singh — described as the “primary architects” of State Capture at Transnet — along with Regiments Capital directors Nevin Pillay and Litha Nyhonyha, were arrested in connection with corruption in the amount of R398.4-million at the parastatal, and joined the case involving Wood, Gama, Pita, Ramosebudi, Roy and Moodley.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Transnet graft: Brian Molefe and fellow top exec Anoj Singh get R50,000 bail after arrest

The accused appeared in two separate groups in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on 29 August. Between them, they face charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act. 

The ID’s Sindisiwe Seboka said: “The charges stem from the locomotives transaction advisory tender which was awarded to the McKinsey-led consortium in 2012, resulting in the procurement of 1,064 locomotives worth more than R54-billion.

“Regiments Capital was irregularly onboarded and ended up benefiting from the irregular appointment by Transnet in respect of the contract. The contract value and scope for the services required was later escalated to more than R305-million.”

This agreement, Seboka added, included the sourcing of the China Development Bank loan and the club loan — $2.5-billion — on behalf of Transnet (equivalent to R30-billion at the time). The accused also face charges linked to the R93.4-million paid to Trillian Asset Management in 2015.

Permission to fly

In his affidavit to have his bail conditions amended, Wood had requested the court to allow him to travel to the UK and Spain to visit his daughter and his parents between 10 and 30 September 2022. He argued that he had always cooperated with law enforcement agencies and had no intention of evading his trial. Wood has been battling a flood of civil litigation since the State Capture scandal collapsed his company.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Trillian’s Eric Wood resists sequestration bid

However, the State contended that there is a risk Wood could fail to return to South Africa if given the opportunity to leave the country, just like Malawi’s self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and the Gupta family, who left the country when they were in a similar situation.

In an affidavit, investigating officer Coetzee said that while most of Wood’s assets were in the country and were under restraint, he had €65,000 in a bank account in Spain.

It is “extremely difficult” to extradite people from the UK, the State argued, and not in the country’s interest to risk being engaged in a “lengthy court challenge in a foreign country with minimal prospects of success”.

In handing down judgment on Wednesday, Magistrate Nemavhidi said Wood had known for about four years that he would be charged, and had ample opportunity to leave the country if he had intentions of evading trial.

Nemavhidi granted Wood’s application to amend the conditions of his bail, and that he be provided with both his passports on condition that he handed them back to the investigating officer within five days of his return.

The State’s attempt to get Wood to pay an additional R2-million bail as “insurance” to guarantee his return to South Africa was dismissed by the court.

Wood and his co-accused are set to return to the Specialised Crimes Court on 14 October. DM


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