Gupta-linked Trillian trying to 'intimidate' whistleblower

Trillian received multiple mentions in former public protector Thuli Madonsela's State of Capture report.

Trillian received multiple mentions in former public protector Thuli Madonsela's State of Capture report.

Trillian Financial Advisory, a Gupta-linked company at the centre of staggering state capture allegations, has demanded that a whistleblower produce a copy of a sworn statement made to the public protector.

Trillian received multiple mentions in the public protector’s State of Capture report released last October. The report examined the alleged influence of the Gupta family on state-owned companies and their role in the alleged hiring and firing of Cabinet ministers.

The company partly owned by Salim Essa, a close business associate of the embattled Gupta family, on Monday asked the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to refuse to entertain a R2-million constructive dismissal claim from its former chief executive until the statement to the public protector is produced.

The case could shed further light on previous claims that Trillian executives had prior knowledge that former finance minister Nhlahla Nene was going to be sacked in December 2015 and that the company had installed a former employee, Mohamed Bobat, as advisor to Nene’s replacement – Des van Rooyen – who held the position for just four days.

The whistleblower may not be named in the media following a CCMA ruling at the start of the proceedings on Monday.

The statement implicated Trillian executives in allegations of state capture, details of which previously surfaced in the public domain.

As part of the CCMA proceedings, Trillian slapped Person X with a subpoena to produce the affidavit, which was handed to the public protector and challenged an assertion by X’s legal counsel that a subpoena cannot be issued against an applicant in such a matter.

Feroze Boda SC, acting for Trillian, told the hearing that a subpoena could be issued to anyone and not just third parties to proceedings.

“The affidavit to the public protector is extremely relevant to the proceedings,” Boda said.

This was because it outlines the reason for the whistleblower’s constructive dismissal and would enable the parties to examine consistency in the whistleblower’s case.

Boda said the whistleblower had no defence for not producing the document, adding that not doing so would be “willful disobedience”.

Advocate William Mokhari SC, acting for Person X, challenged Trillian’s attempt to subpoena the whistleblower to produce the affidavit and questioned why the company didn’t direct their subpoena to the public protector instead.

Mokhari dismissed Trillian’s “back door” bid for the document, which he said, had been given to the public protector with “confidentiality provisions”.

As such, Mokhari said threats to have Person X found in contempt for not producing the document were tantamount to intimidation by the former employer.

Boda asked that the CCMA find Person X in contempt, alternatively that her claim be barred until such time as she produces the sworn statement.

“You can’t come to this forum to seek justice and R2-million in compensation,” but then not be willing to comply with the subpoena, Boda said.

The case was postponed to February 13.

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