News24 Wire
Wire Service
3 minute read
4 Dec 2020
8:21 pm

Zondo hears how Estina’s sole director ‘created confusion in tracing funds’

News24 Wire

Paul Holden, a director of investigations at Shadow World Investigations, continued to deliver bombshell testimony at the Zondo commission on Friday.

File image: Dairy cows on the Vrede dairy farm in the Free State. Picture: Neil McCartney

Paul Holden, a director of investigations at Shadow World Investigations, continued to deliver bombshell testimony at the Zondo commission on Friday, detailing complex Gupta-linked financial records with the flow of Estina dairy farm money.

Shadow World Investigations is a global organisation, which probes cases of grand corruption.

Testifying before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, the chair of the commission, Holden showed the commission a diagram of a “complicated circular movement of funds”.

According to Holden, public funds were used to settle the loans obtained from Oakbay Investment.

He said when the Free State government first made deposits into Estina, the money was immediately put into a fixed deposit account.

The money was left untouched for period of over a year, he said.

He said, in 2012, when Estina had to “develop and deliver a dairy farm”, the company started to incur certain costs.

And, in order to finance those costs, Kamal Vasram, the sole director of the company, took out a series of loans from Oakbay Investments and Aerohaven trading, which were immediately paid to Estina and used for various costs.

But the loan was settled by public funds which came from the Free State government, he said.

“None of the funds transferred from Oakbay to Kamal Vasram are actually ever fully derived from Oakbay Investments, it is just an advance on the Free State payments.”

Asked by evidence leader, advocate Matthew Chaskalson, why the money, which appeared to originate from the Oakbay loan, went through Vasram and then to Estina, Holden said: “The only possible reason I could think, is to create a degree of confusion in tracing funds, to create a distance between Oakbay and Estina, so that when an investigator was to look at Estina’s Standard Bank account, for example, they will be seeing a whole range of transfers in from Kamal Vasram, who is the sole director of Estina.

“He [Vasram] could argue, at that point, that: ‘See, I am putting in my own funds into this venture’, whereas if you had Kamal Vasram’s own bank account, you would realise, actually, it is none of his funds, it is Oakbay funds.”

Aerohaven, also a Gupta enterprise, in which Ronica Ragavan (Gupta loyalist) was the primary director, also paid out loans to Vasram, the commission heard.

Holden previously told Zondo how the dairy farm was allegedly used as a front to launder money.

Estina was identified in early 2012 as the company that would partner with the Free State government in the dairy farm project.

At the time, the plan was for Estina and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to inject a R500 million investment into the project.

The department then kick-started the project with R30 million to Estina, but money continued to flow into Estina coffers, it was previously reported.

The contract was cancelled in August 2014.

Holden said the total amount the Free State government paid Estina was R280 million, plus R7 million interest.

The money was paid in eight separate tranches between 9 July 2012 and 5 May 2016, he added.

Holden alleged that the R287 million was “washed” three times – and eventually the money deposited into Estina amounted to R880 million.

He also revealed that Estina was used for alleged money laundering, even before initiation of the dairy farm project.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.