Spy boss's dodgy business

National Intelligence Agency (NIA) Director General Manala Manzini is tied into business undertakings and a dodgy property deal with Tania Volschenk, mafioso Glenn Agliotti’s landlady and fixer.

Volschenk has run companies active in property, finance and health supplements from modest offices in a residential area of Randburg, north of Johannesburg.

Questions have been raised about her business ethics, most recently in the context of billionaire Dave King’s allegedly fraudulent tax ‘settlement” with the South African Revenue Service (Sars).

Volschenk has been described by an acquaintance, who asked not to be named, as extremely well connected and as Agliotti’s ‘conduit to the ANC”.

An examination of her business relations confirms the impression that she has considerable political access.
She has been registered as a director of companies with, among other people, Manzini; Brian Koopedi, who heads the office which coordinates law enforcement agencies’ interception activities; Ntshiki Mashimbye, a former parliamentary defence committee chair; controversial Mpumalanga minister Jackson Mthembu; and Tina Radebe, a senior government official and partner of Joel Netshitenzhe, former president Thabo Mbeki’s confidant and policy honcho.

Volschenk’s ties with Manzini raise large conflict-of-interest questions, particularly as both were allegedly involved in procuring an affidavit from Agliotti in January which threatened to wreck the pending corruption trial of police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi.

In the affidavit, which Selebi paraded in an aborted court bid to avert his arrest, Agliotti contradicted earlier claims that he had bribed the police chief and accused the Scorpions of a ‘political game”.

Agliotti subsequently retracted this affidavit and returned to the Scorpions’ fold, but his credibility as a witness bears the scars. In retracting, he said Volschenk had typed the affidavit on her laptop before he signed it in Manzini’s presence.

Volschenk has denied typing the affidavit, but has rebuffed further Mail & Guardian attempts to get comment from her. Manzini earlier confirmed that he had played a role in the incident.

In the period preceding the affidavit incident Volschenk entered a series of transactions with Manzini on the one hand and Agliotti on the other.

This reinforces questions about what influenced the spy chief when he decided to involve himself in the Agliotti/Selebi saga in his official capacity.

  • When Manzini bought his home in the exclusive Dainfern golf estate outside Johannesburg in April 2006, Volschenk was involved, sources acquainted with Manzini and Volschenk said, speaking off the record.

    Deeds office records show that while the purchase price was R3,4-million Absa extended a bond of R5,5-million. The bond is unusually large: the purchase price plus 62%.

    Another Volschenk acquaintance, also demanding anonymity, claimed Volschenk helped clients raise outsized bonds with promises to invest the difference in very lucrative schemes. Manzini, through NIA spokesperson Lorna Daniels, declined to answer whether Volschenk provided this ‘service” for him.

  • Company records show that in March last year Manzini and Volschenk started a company, Thubaletho Properties. Others involved included Herman Dludlu, an NIA official; the Mpumalanga minister Mthembu, and Radebe, Netshitenzhe’s partner.

    Dennis Kekana, a former business partner of Volschenk, was also involved. This week he told the M&G that Thubaletho had unsuccessfully pursued a mining-related property deal in Mpumalanga and had since become dormant.

  • In late October last year Volschenk, Manzini, Kekana and Radebe became directors of a ‘general investments” shelf company, Cannistraro Investments 191.

    This week Kekana professed ignorance of Cannistraro’s intended purpose. Radebe, who had a senior position in the NIA and now heads government’s Jobs for Growth programme, was in Japan and was unavailable for comment. All the directors but Radebe have since resigned.

  • A month later, in late November last year, Volschenk bought Agliotti’s luxurious family home in Bryanston for R5,7-million, deeds office records show. The M&G reported last week that Agliotti still lives there.

    After the cancellation of his R1,2-million bond, the transaction would have netted Agliotti roughly R4,5-million, relieving him of cash flow problems since his arrest in December 2006 in connection with mining magnate Brett Kebble’s murder.

    It could reasonably be asked whether, in making the affidavit favouring Selebi, Agliotti felt indebted to Volschenk, who had just bought his house and could provide access to Manzini.

    When Agliotti later retracted the affidavit he said in a statement to the Scorpions: ‘Mr Manzini assured me that he was the most powerful man in the country and would take care of me ... I wanted to align myself with him in an attempt to negotiate a better deal for myself [than that already negotiated with the Scorpions].”

    Agliotti’s association with Volschenk has persisted. The M&G revealed last week that Agliotti and Volschenk were directly involved with the individuals who facilitated Dave King’s contested tax settlement.

    Sars has described the settlement document as fraudulent and refused to accede to King’s demand that it be honoured.

    The M&G has detailed information from two sources claiming Volschenk was involved in a similar case as late as the middle of this year, when a ‘tax solution” was proposed to a businessman who wanted to transfer a large amount of money out of the country.

    The businessman abandoned the attempt, but only after making large payments to Volschenk, Agliotti and members of his family, as well as the tax consultant involved in the King matter. Volschenk’s share is believed to have been about R700 000, with the Agliotti family receiving about half that amount.

  • Stefaans Brümmer

    Stefaans Brümmer

    Stefaans is an old hand at investigations. A politics and journalism graduate, he cut his reporting teeth at the Cape Argus in the tumultuous early 1990s; then joined the Mail & Guardian as democracy dawned in April 1994. For the next 16 years (a late-1990s diversion into television and freelancing apart), the M&G was his journalistic home and launch pad for award-winning investigations focusing on the nexus between politics and money. Stefaans has co-authored exposés including Oilgate, the Selebi affair, Chancellor House and significant breaks in the arms deal scandal. Stefaans and Sam Sole co-founded amaBhungane in 2010. He divides his time between the demands of media bureaucracy (which he detests), coaching members of the amaBhungane team, and his first love, digging for dung.
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