The Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) has ordered Gupta-linked consultancy Trillian to return almost R600m in fees to Eskom that the court says appears to be the result of a corrupt relationship between Eskom officials and the directors of Trillian.

The contract with Trillian was part of a bigger 2015 contract with global consultancy McKinsey, notes a Business Day report.

While McKinsey agreed in 2018 to repay Eskom the approximately R1bn it had received as part of the contract, Trillian refused to acknowledge that the funds were wrongfully received. The contract is one of several which the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom has identified as tainted by state capture.

McKinsey was the main contractor and Trillian was the black empowerment partner that received some aspects of the contract at the behest of Eskom. The court set aside as ‘unlawful and invalid’ both Eskom’s contract with McKinsey as well as Eskom’s subsequent decisions to make payment to Trillian.

According to a Fin24 report, Eskom said it would consult with its legal advisers on the next step.

Eskom welcomes the judgment. We will be engaging with our legal advisers in the next few days to map the way forward and how to enforce the judgment,’ it said.

Full Business Day report

Full Fin24 report

Trillian has also been ordered to pay the costs of the application, according to a Mail & Guardian report.

The judgment – delivered by Judges Selby Baqwa, Moara Tsoka and Dawie Fourie – forms part of Eskom’s battle to undo years of alleged maladministration, says the report.

In court, Eskom argued that Trillian – established by Eric Wood and Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa – benefited from unlawful and corrupt dealings. But Trillian contended that the case for corruption was ‘flimsy at best’ and based on disputed facts.

Mike Hellens SC, counsel for Trillian, argued that allegations of corruption against his client are disputed and cannot be resolved without cross-examination.

But the judgment opposed this view: ‘It is indeed foolhardy to expect the very persons who either acted unlawfully or fraudulently to depose to confirmatory affidavits. In addition, the interest of justice would not only be frustrated by the non-admission of the evidence on the basis that such evidence is hearsay, but this rejection of such evidence would benefit the wrong-doers.’

The judgment also supports the view that a corrupt relationship existed between Essa and former senior Eskom officials, including Anoj Singh and Matshela Koko.

It is common cause that it is the same officials who fast-tracked and facilitated payments to Trillian when there was neither factual nor legal basis to do so,’ the judgment reads.

It adds: ‘Corruption is the only issue that Trillian seems, even so feebly, to put in issue. Upon examination of the undisputed facts it seems that even on this aspect Trillian fails to make out a case.

Full Mail & Guardian report

Judgment can be downloaded here