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By News24 Wire

Wire Service

State capture inquiry: Joint venture never made illegal payments in Free State asbestos project

Several initials or names in the schedule were noted as TZ, TM, AM, OM, MEC, MZ, Steve, JT and Diedericks.

Businessman Edwin Sodi told the state capture inquiry there were no illegal payments made from the joint venture account that scored the multi-million rand Free State asbestos audit contract.

A joint venture between Sodi’s engineering consultancy firm, Blackhead Consulting, and Diamond Hill Trading 71 scored the R255 million contract in 2014.

Testifying before inquiry chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Wednesday, Sodi was asked about a spreadsheet which links ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule to kickbacks for helping to facilitate the project.

“There were no illegal payments that came from the JV [joint venture] account, equally so, there was no illegal payment that came from Blackhead. I don’t know about the other side (Diamond Hill).”

He said the spreadsheet was prepared by his business partner, the late Ignatius “Igo” Mpambani, on his (Sodi’s) computer.

He said the purpose of the spreadsheet was to identify the cost that would be paid from the asbestos project money.

Sodi claimed the spreadsheet was never given to him. He added that the first time he started questioning it was during interviews with the commission’s investigators.

Sodi claimed he was not involved in preparing it.

The spreadsheet was first mentioned in the testimony of former economic development MEC Mxolisi Dukwana, who alleged that former premier Ace Magashule had received R10 million for helping to facilitate the project.

The document was termed “cost of business” schedule.

He said the amount reflected on the schedule was paid as gratification in relation to the contract.

Several initials or names in the schedule were noted as TZ, TM, AM, OM, MEC, MZ, Steve, JT and Diedericks.

But, on Wednesday, Sodi said he did not know who the initials represented.

He also said: “The funds that were paid into Blackhead Consulting were funds that were due to Blackhead Consulting. There is no one else that was paid from funds that went into our account. Not a single individual. If there were payments that were made elsewhere, I wouldn’t have known.

“There were certainly no payments or illegal payments that were paid from the JV. As much as I was a signatory to that account, I wasn’t a transactor, but I had access to it,” Sodi said.

However, Zondo said in an email which Mpambani sent to Sodi, he said: “Please note that payments highlighted in yellow are the ones you will take care of and the rest us.”

He said Mpambani also mentioned that, “as discussed with you (Sodi), I have effected the payments in two batches”.

However, Sodi said he only started “looking at it properly” during interviews with the commission’s investigators.

However, evidence leader advocate Paul Pretorius SC said he found it difficult that Sodi did not interrogate his profit up until he met with the commission’s investigators. He also did not question the money that was missing.

Sodi said he knew what the cost of the project was and how much was going to be paid to the sub-contractors.

He also added: “With the benefit of hindsight, I should’ve opened the spreadsheet and interrogated it, which is something I didn’t do. Had I done that, I would have been able to say, ‘hang on, this is not what we discussed, there seem to be entries I am not aware of’.”

Pretorius said he found it difficult to believe Sodi.

He said it was “improbable” that he failed to scrutinise the spreadsheet.

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