Johannesburg – Transnet has mounted a legal battle to recoup over R299-million of its employee pension funds allegedly siphoned by Gupta associate Eric Wood at the height of the family’s state capture in SA.
Transnet applied for an order in the Joburg High Court last week to sequestrate Wood and to attach his multi-million personal properties and use the proceeds to pay back the funds, which belonged to 4 000 Transnet employees.
Wood’s assets include his residential property in Sandhurst, Sandton, and a game farm in Lephalale, Limpopo, which are reportedly valued at R35-million and R20-million, respectively.
Wood’s movable assets consist of 2013 Range Rover worth R300 000, a R300 000 2012 BMW X6M, a R500 000 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S Cabrio, a R500 000 Porche Cayenne Turbo s II 92A Triptonic S, a R300 000 2014 Mercedez Benz S600L and a R12-million Bell helicopter Texton 206L 51489.
He also owns 10 firearms, whose value is unknown.
Applying for the order, liquidator Johannes Petrus Jakobus Maritz said Wood, who was a director of Regiments Group, worked with another Gupta associate, Salim Aziz Essa, who was the controlling mind behind the Trillian Group of companies.
He said the two men had used these companies to commit a systematic, calculated and large-scale conspiracy by which public funds were diverted from state-owned enterprises, including Transnet, to benefit himself, Essa and the Gupta family.
Maritz said R229-million was stolen from Transnet’s retirement fund called Second Defined Benefit Fund, and another R348-million was taken out of the fund for the benefit of the Wood and Regiments Group by means of bond-churning transactions – commercially pointless bond trades between the fund and Regiments Securities effected by Regiments Fund Managers, which controlled two portfolios of assets of the fund.
He said Wood himself received at least R46 523 404 out of the profits of the bond-churning transactions. Maritz said they wanted the order because Transnet would be prejudiced as other creditors, including the National Director of Public Prosecution (NDPP) and SA Revenue Service (SARS) had obtained restraint orders in terms of Prevention of Organised Crime Act, which required Wood’s properties disclosed and surrendered pending the finalisation of an order to confiscate them He said although SARS was still assessing his personal tax liability from 2012 to date, the assessed tax debt by Trillian in respect of income tax and value-added tax was R220-million.
Maritz said Trillian was also wound up by Eskom, to which it owed over half a billion rand. Maritz said he was worried Transnet might not get all its funds back if the order was not granted because Wood’s estimated liabilities were R530-million compared to his total estimated assets of R14-million.
Maritz said this was because Wood had disposed of some of his valuable assets, including a R3-million McLaren vehicle.
“I also attach an eNaTis report, which shows that the McLaren was registered in Daytona (Pty) Ltd’s name in September 2019. Although it is believed that the value of the McLaren was approximately R3-million it would appear from Wood’s bank account statements that he had only received an amount of R1.3-million from Daytona in this regard. It is therefore clear that Wood disposed of valuable assets prior to the NDPP’s order for what appears to be below market value,” read the papers.
He also said that Wood had disposed of his Sandhurst property and game farm to Zara Property Trust.
“According to the records of the Registrar of Deeds, the Sandhurst property was transferred from the respondent’s personal name to the Zara Property Trust on 19 September 2012 for a purchase consideration of R885 461.
“The Sandhurst property measures 4 000 square metres and is situated in an upmarket area of Johannesburg. It is likely to be worth several millions of rand. It appears from the extracts from the Registrar of Deeds that it is unencumbered. There is no conceivable reason that the Sandhurst property, which is the respondent’s residential home, should have been transferred to the Zara Property Trust in 2012.
“I respectfully submit that the only reasonable inference which may be draw from the respondent’s transfer of the Sandhurst property [at what appears to be a nominal amount given the value of property in the area] was in an attempt to safeguard it from claims of his creditors,” read the papers.
Maritz also said Wood had transferred his game farm in Lephalale to Zara Property Trust on November 30 2012.
“Similarly, the Zounfontein farm, which was previously owned by the respondent personally, was transferred to the Zara Property Trust for a purchase consideration of R809 630.
“I respectfully submit that the only inference which can be draw from this is an attempt by the respondent to avoid his creditors being able to lay claim to such farm,” read the papers.
Maritz said Wood had prejudiced his creditors by transferring his properties to the trust as this left little in his estate. He said the court should grant Transnet a sequestration order against Wood, which must also authorise the appointment of trustees to investigate how much the McLaren was insured for and the circumstances under which the two properties were transferred, and if the creditors could lay a claim on the properties.
He said although Wood is married to Paula in community of property, her assets should vest in Wood’s trustees until such time as she is able to satisfy them that they belong to her.
“In this way, should the respondent have disposed of any assets or structured his affairs in such a way as to hold them in Paula’s name, in the hope of ring-fencing or concealing them from his creditors, such assets can be recovered by a trustee and the proceeds distributed in the proper statutory order of preference,” read the papers.
Maritz also said Transnet investigation should be conducted on R1-million that was transferred from Wood’s FNB account to his wife, and if it was a loan to her it must be recovered.