Case against Koko filled with contradictions, hearsay

The star witness’ version of events in the corruption case involving former Eskom CEO Matshela Koko is marred by contradictions, amnesia and hearsay evidence that could work in favour of the power utility’s ex-boss.

Koko has been charged for allegedly manipulating procurement processes to enable a company called ABB to secure a R2.2-billion contract at Kusile power station in exchange for a R10-million kickback.

The state alleges Koko was going to receive the ABB kickback through the Leago scheme of businesses owned by Thabo Mokwena, his former classmate and best friend. According to the state, when this kickback plan did not work out, Koko devised a new scheme through another entity, Impulse, of which his stepdaughter was a director.

In the sworn statements and interview minutes, which form part of the state’s case file, former ABB South Africa and Africa business unit manager Götz Dietrich Wolff, who has been lined up to testify against Koko, submitted contradictory evidence. Wolff conceded he had neither met nor interacted with Koko and that his evidence against him was based on gossip from his colleagues at ABB, which he cannot vouch for.

Wolff, in his “original statement” in July 2017, claimed to not remember who introduced him to Impulse, stating it could be either one of his two colleagues – senior manager for the ABB Eskom contract Sunil Vip “or” then ABB group vice-president for power generation, Markus Bruegmann, who was based in Switzerland.

The two are also accused 15 and 16 in Koko’s criminal proceedings.

It is in the same statement that Wolff puts his head on the block that there were “no improper payments” to any ABB subcontractor, and that he can vouch that Impulse was not imposed upon ABB “as a condition to win the contract”.

The state, over and above Wolff’s affidavit, hopes to rely on two statements and interview minutes from the German to nail Koko. The minutes were generated from two interviews Wolff conducted with investigators from the international law firm, Pinsent Masons, in July 2017 and December 2018.

In December 2018, Wolff, in his second interview with Pinsent Masons investigators, claimed it was Vip who produced the final price of R2.2-billion and that it was Koko who was feeding ABB executives with Eskom’s internal information. However, he made a dramatic U-turn in his final statement in this regard, stating that there was a player map reflecting former Eskom executive Dan Marokane as the source of information for ABB.

This is also confirmed by an email seen by Sunday World between Frank Duggan, a senior ABB executive based in Germany, and Claudio Facchin, also of ABB, mentioning Marokane as ABB’s informant at Eskom.

“We believe that since it is now down to an open tender, Eskom would prefer to take a different company for each power plant (Kusile and Medupi).

“Yesterday at the meeting with Eskom, the person who is the head of capital projects (Marokane) stated he hoped ABB are now serious about the project and would put our best team and experience forward…The game is on,” reads the email.

Marokane is, surprisingly, not among the accused.

The documents we have seen further show Wolff stating that Vip, through an email, detailed plans by the cabinet to appoint a new board and how this was the golden opportunity for ABB to benefit.

“Given the particularity of the information, I assumed that the information was coming from Koko only. But I cannot be certain about that.”

On the R2.2-billion contract value and where the figure emanated from, Wolff initially claimed he did not know.

But in his final statement, Wolff states something different, saying “the figure came from Vip following his discussions with Mokwena and Koko”.

Koko is accused of agreeing with Vip to pay ABB a R250-million variation order.

However, an email from ABB vice-president of power and water automation, Ingo Wagner, was shown to Wolff to comment on. In that email, Wagner estimated the job at R250-million.

When Wolff was asked where Wagner got the R250-million for the job, he told investigators in December 2018 that he did not know.

However, in 2019, he changed his version, saying the figure came from Koko.

After Koko allegedly fell out with Mokwena over the failed Leago scheme, Wolff claimed in one of the interviews with investigators that Vip had apparently arranged a meeting between the two to smoke a peace pipe.

“I am unable to say as a matter of fact whether Vip had actually arranged any meeting between Koko and Mokwena.”

These events are believed to be among the reasons the state is dragging its feet after much fanfare and speed with which it arrested and charged Koko.

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