Former Transnet and Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh and his lawyer on Thursday challenged the integrity of information the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture extracted from the Gupta leaks emails when he was confronted with proof showing that the family paid for his hotel accommodation in Dubai in 2014.
Evidence leader Anton Myburgh read from an email containing an invoice reflecting that Singh’s bill for a luxury suite at the five-star Oberoi hotel he occupied between April 30 to May 2 was at least in part covered by Rajesh Gupta.
Singh’s legal counsel, Anneline van den Heever, said she wished to point out that there was no independent investigation that confirmed the contents of the emails. “This impacts on the veracity of the documents.”
Myburgh noted that there was an ongoing project in the state capture inquiry to authenticate documents drawn from the Gupta leaks — a trove of emails extracted from a hard drive handed in for repair but never collected by Ashu Chawla, an executive at Sahara Computers, owned by Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta.
Singh dismissed swathes of information put to him during the course of the day on the basis that he believed the documentation was fabricated. Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo asked if he was suggesting that anybody in particular had contrived it to frame him, to which Singh said the origin of the emails was obscure. “They come from the leaks, so we don’t know exactly who the leaks come from.”
In response to questions on his 2014 trip to Dubai, Singh conceded that he was there at the time but said he was unaware of the presence of one of the Gupta brothers and the family’s business associate, Salim Essa, in the city, and paid for his own accommodation.
Myburgh asked whether he had any proof of the payment. Singh replied that he did not, because he paid in cash.
He also pointed out that the invoice refers to one Anuj Singh.
“I assume that is a mistake that is often made in the spelling of your name?” Myburgh asked.
Singh replied that the mistake was less likely at a hotel where he would have used his passport to check in.
Zondo asked Singh whether he correctly understood that he was contesting that the document referred to him.
“This is not me,” Singh replied.
He denied that he stayed at the same hotel between June 3 and 9 when he returned to Dubai, saying this time he went there for reasons related to Transnet and the company never used the Oberoi. But he could not recall the professional objective of the trip.
Singh flatly denied that he again travelled to Dubai in August that year, as indicated by the emails.
Singh conceded that in earlier testimony he had confirmed travelling to Dubai in that month, but said when he discussed this with family, he realised it was not correct.
Myburgh raised six separate trips to Dubai in the space of just more than a year and asked Singh to explain the reasons for his frequent visits to the city, given that on his own version he only went there once on Transnet business.
Singh said some of the trips were for leisure and others for private networking. Myburgh expressed surprise that he would do the latter while serving as chief financial officer of Transnet, to which Singh explained that he believed that when he left Transnet he would emigrate and that “expanding my personal network within the UAE” was important with a view to the future.
Instead, Singh was seconded to Eskom where he authorised advance payments for coal that enabled the Gupta family’s exploration company Tegeta to buy the Optimum coal mine.
His testimony on Thursday was in keeping with that some 10 days ago when he attributed the fact that he travelled back from Dubai to Johannesburg on the same flight as Rajesh Gupta, Essa and fellow Gupta associate Sanjay Grover as well as then president Jacob Zuma’s attorney Michael Hulley in June 2014, to “divination” or “supernatural powers”.
The fact that he used the same travel agency as Essa was purely “coincidental”, he said on Thursday.
Myburgh confronted him with proof that instead of four private safety boxes, as he testified earlier, he held eight at a Knox Vault facility in Johannesburg, one of them labelled as extra, extra large.
Singh blamed his memory for the oversight and struggled to explain why he needed this much space to keep safe cash and documents outside his home. Myburgh calculated that, if stacked on top of each other, the height of the safety deposit boxes came to about 1.6m. He stacked file boxes into a tower to illustrate the point.
Singh tried to refute testimony by his former driver, identified only as Witness 3, that he took him to the facility to store cash collected from the Gupta family’s Saxonwold home, insisting that the man could not know this because he always drove himself when he visited the safety boxes.
He said he stored up to R200 000 there at a time and made the money gambling and doing freelance work.