‘No one received payment that was not in respect of services rendered to the campaign. If there was a beneficiary, it was CR17 and all it stood for’
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane says there is “merit” to allegations that President Cyril Ramaphosa might have used a series of trusts and complex financial transactions to disguise the “laundering” of more than R440 million donated to his ANC presidential campaign.
These findings are contained in her report, released on Friday, which found Ramaphosa’s campaign received the hundreds of millions of rands in donations.
The money was managed by Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign managers and channelled into three trust accounts, a campaign account and a private company in a series of complex financial transactions.
These were the EFG2 trust account, belonging to law firm Edelstein Faber Grobbler, the CR17 campaign account, the Ria Tenda trust account, the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation trust account, and a service provider called Linkd Environmental Services.
Mkhwebane’s report, released on Friday, concluded that these transactions gave credence to allegations that they might have amounted to money laundering.
The law firm was responsible for distributing campaign funds which went into the EFG2 trust account.
The report follows Mkhwebane’s investigation into whether controversial company Bosasa donated R500 000 to Ramaphosa’s campaign.
She found the money had been channelled through intermediaries before eventually landing in the EFG2 account.
In October 2017 the R500 000 was transferred from the personal account of Bosasa chief executive Gavin Watson into that of Miotto Trading, a company owned by Bosasa’s tax consultant Petrus Venter and his sister.
From Miotto Trading the money was transferred to the EFG2 account.
In light of the broader allegations of money laundering, Mkhwebane said she had to look into other funds received by the EFG2 account, which led her to Ria Tenda trust account, the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation trust, the CR17 campaign account and the Linkd Environmental services account.
“I have evidence which indicates that some of the money collected through the CR17 account was transferred into the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation account. I have evidence which indicates that some of the money collected through the CR17 campaign account was also transferred into the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation account from where it was also transferred to other beneficiaries,” Mkhwebane said in her report.
The EFG2 account disbursed funds to the other accounts the campaign used.
“I can confirm that large sums of money were transferred by various benefactors into the EFG2 trust account for the CR17 campaign from where it was disbursed by the attorneys to several beneficiaries, including Ria Tenda trust, Linkd Environmental services and the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, to name but a few,” she wrote.
Mkhwebane found that more than R191 million flowed into the EFG2 trust account between December 6 2016 and January 1 last year, and about R190 million was transferred out of the account during the same period.
“In conclusion, on the above revelations relating to exchanges of large sums of money, some of which were received from private companies, I wish to express my preliminary view that such a scenario, when looked at carefully, creates a situation of the risk of some sort of state capture by those donating these moneys to the campaign,” she wrote.
“Based on the facts before me, as well as evidence adduced during my investigation, I have come to the conclusion that there is merit to the allegation relating to the suspicion of money laundering as alluded to in the complaint lodged with my office.”
But in a submission to Mkhwebane, through the law firm Harris Nupen Molebatsi, Ramaphosa said that from September 2015 to May 2016 he had funded his own campaign to the tune of R200 000 as he had no sponsors.
- Except for his own donations and those made by his campaign managers, James Motlatsi, Sifiso Dabengwa and Donné Nicol, Ramaphosa said he did not know the identities of other donors.
“The finance committee oversaw all campaign finances and was responsible for ensuring that the funds were spent economically and for the purpose for which they were intended, which was the payment of the expenses of the campaign,” Ramaphosa submitted. No individuals, he said, benefited from funds intended for his campaign.
“No individual received payment that was not in respect of services rendered to the campaign. If there was a beneficiary it was CR17 and all that it stood for,” he said.
From the amounts he submitted, Ramaphosa lent millions of rands of his own money to his campaign.
On September 12 2017 he donated R5 million into the Ria Tenda account and five days later he loaned a further R20 million.
He loaned his campaign a further R11 million, which he deposited into Ria Tenda in two tranches, on December 6 2017 and July 28 last year.
The fund-raising team contacted a number of donors, asking them to deposit their contributions in either the EFG2 or Ria Tenda accounts, Ramaphosa said in his submission.
On May 30 2017 Nicol instructed EFG to route all payments made to the EFG account to Ria Tenda or Linkd.
“Linkd and the Ria Tenda trust would then disburse payments on the instructions of the fund-raising committee. However, following the establishment of the Ria Tenda trust no payments were made by EFG to Linkd. All payments from the EFG2 account were made to the Ria Tenda trust account,” Ramaphosa said in his submission.
“CR17’s funds accordingly were raised from party members, the president himself, as well as party supporters and interested parties.”
Neither Ramaphosa nor any member of his family received money from the campaign, he said.
“In fact the president contributed R6.2 million to the campaign and loaned the campaign a further R31 million, of which the campaign has refunded him only R21.5 million,” his submission states.
Ramaphosa also dismissed questions raised about campaign money that was paid into his foundation.
He argued that the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation earned the money legitimately because it provided services, such as accommodation, to the CR17 campaign.
Ria Tenda had been mandated to receive donations towards his campaign, he said, adding that he played no role in the establishment of the Ria Tenda trust.
Equally, Ramaphosa said Linkd, which has been in operation since 2008, had nothing to do with him.
In 2017 Ria Tenda and Linkd signed a service-level agreement in which the company agreed to provide accounting and financial administration services tothe Ria Tenda trust.