PRASA deal's European 'BEE' partner, arms deal links

16th September 2016

By: News24Wire


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A Swiss consulting firm, whose owner had been named in a corruption probe in Italy, may have received at least R4-million thanks to its bizarre BEE stake in PRASA's R51-billion tender for new passenger coaches.

Last week, News24 revealed that JSE-listed technology firm EOH had paid R16.5-million for 100% of the shares in New Africa Rail (NAR). Thalente Myeni, the son of SAA chair Dudu Myeni, had been one of NAR's previous shareholders and may have pocketed at least R3m from the deal.

One of NAR's other former shareholders, rather bizarrely, is Maydex AG, a Swiss company situated in the heart of Zürich. Before the EOH buy-out, Maydex AG held a significant stake in NAR. To date, neither Alstom, the Gibela consortium or PRASA have explained why a European-owned company situated in an established tax haven had been included by Alstom as a BEE partner in the huge tender.

If EOH's R16.5-million buy-out of NAR's shares had been divided according to the previous shareholding structure, Maydex AG would have received a return of R4-million from the transaction. However, Patrick Landau, Maydex AG's owner, says his company had received in the region of €200 000 (about R3.1-million).

One has to peel off the onion-like layers of the Gibela consortium's shareholding structure in order to locate Maydex AG, a sub-shareholder of NAR, within the deal.

NAR has a 9% stake in the Gibela consortium. Before the EOH transaction, NAR's biggest shareholder (51%) was Maydex SA, a locally registered company. Festinatio Logistics, also registered in South Africa, in turn owned 51% of Maydex's SA shares, while Maydex AG owned the remaining shares. This equates to a stake of just less than 25% in NAR as a whole, which could have secured the Swiss company a R4m return had EOH's R16.5m buy-out of NAR's shares been divided according to the previous shareholding structure.

The fact that at least R3.1-million  related to the PRASA tender may have found its way into a Swiss company's bank account becomes doubly concerning when considering who Maydex AG's owner is.

Landau was identified in a 2014 report by Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano (The Daily Fact) as having been the recipient of millions of euros from Italian oil and gas giant Eni. The payments, according to a leaked audit report the newspaper had obtained, had triggered a due diligence investigation because Landau's Maydex AG had been appointed by Eni to do lobbying work connected to energy deals the Italian company was doing in northern Africa and in the Middle East.

But Landau, speaking to News24 from Europe, denied that his company had ever been involved in any wrongdoing. He says Maydex had been employed by Eni to assist the company with lobbying work in the US and to help it build relationships in "various countries."

Earlier this year, a judge in Milan indicted Paolo Scaroni, the former Eni CEO who had appointed Landau's company, on charges relating to a staggering €198m (about R3.2bn) of alleged bribes that Eni had paid Algerian government officials in order to secure contracts worth €8-billion (about R130-billion).

The trial is set to start in December and it is not yet clear whether any payments made by Eni to Maydex AG will play a role in the case.

Landau, however, has himself been implicated in alleged corruption. According to the Il Fatto Quotidiano report, Italian prosecutors had, in 2004, linked Landau to alleged corruption and bribery related to contracts awarded to Italian construction giant Impregilo. Landau denied that his company had ever done work for Impregilo. "I have never been interviewed or approached by any government officials in relation to any corruption investigation," said Landau.

Coincidentally, Impregilo is one of the joint venture (JV) partners for the construction of Eskom's Ingula pumped storage power plant in KwaZulu-Natal. Carte Blanche revealed in August that Impregilo and its JV partners had been paid huge amounts of money in bonuses and advances by Eskom, despite the fact that the project was years behind schedule.

The third link between Landau and a large European company is perhaps the most curious of the lot. According to Il Fatto Quotidiano, Landau had been a good friend of Sir Richard Evans, British arms manufacturer BAE Systems' former chairperson. Landau reportedly also did lobbying work for BAE, which is where things get very interesting.

BAE Systems, one of the companies probed around South Africa's infamous multibillion-rand arms deal, was found by the British Serious Fraud Office to have paid R280-million in questionable fees to Fana Hlongwane, former defence minister Joe Modise's erstwhile special adviser.

According to the Italian newspaper, Landau also played a role in facilitating an arms contract between Italian company Finmeccanica and the Israeli government. Finmeccanica is the mother company of Agusta, which supplied South Africa with helicopters during the infamous 1999 arms deal.

Landau explained that his company had been doing consulting work for Alstom for the past 25 years, which is how he'd become involved in the PRASA tender.

"For us, our involvement in the PRASA deal is not a success story. We got stuck in the BEE system, which we don't really understand.We made very little money out of our involvement in the contract compared to the size of the PRASA deal," said Landau.

"Alstom chose NAR back in 2012 as an additional empowerment partner in a process where other BEE partners were also involved. Alstom selected NAR to promote long-term partnerships with Black South African Entrepreneur Industrialists according to a selection process strictly in line with its Ethics and Compliance principles and processes," Alstom Southern Africa said in an email.

Edited by News24Wire


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