Paul Holden, director of investigations at Shadow World Investigations, has exposed more of the rot in the Estina dairy farm project.

Shadow World Investigations is a London-based company that uncovers corruption and corporate corruption. Holden was called to give his testimony at the Zondo commission on how money had illicitly flowed from the Free State government to the Estina diary farm which was meant for struggling black farmers in Vrede.

The funds never reached the farmers and were instead transferred through a complex network of ‘washing’ in local and international bank accounts until it landed in the Gupta coffers. In addition, some of the funds were diverted to pay for the Sun City wedding which had top politicians in attendance.

Holden said the project received R283m from the Free State government. It was then put through a series of transactions which ended in R1bn being spent by the government.

“It says transfer from Free State agriculture and then R30 million goes into Estina’s account. And then what you can see following is payments that are made out of the account into the Bank of Baroda account of multiple R5 million payments.”

Holden likened this to ‘smurfing’ based on the TV show of the same name.

“The Smurfs are very small blue men and smurfing refers to the fact that they are taking a large amount of money, either in reducing it into paying it out in a series of much smaller transactions,” Holden said.

Estina was meant to be a public-private partnership with the Free State government but was overtaken by the Guptas to fund their lavish empire.

Holden gave a breakdown of how the accounts were set-up:

  • Linkway trading  was registered in SA, in 2012 by Gupta lieutenant Ronica Ragavan and was the recipient of funds from Estina
  • Global LLC – was linked to five or six banks
  • Standard Bank was the primary account for the Estina project until switch was made to FNB
  • Unit trust with Stanlib
  • Bank of Baroda -which had 14 fixed deposit accounts linked to it  (open and held at various times).
  • Accurate Investments was registered to a PO Box in Dubai and was the recipient of funds. “It’s really just a placeholder with which funds are being funnelled out of the country – no employee costs or infrastructure costs. The company has no online profile or physical structure,” said Holden.
  • Aerohaven: SA registered by Ronica Ragavan and held shares in vast array of companies
  • Fidelity Enterprises -was registered by Gupta affiliate Sanjay Grover and through Standard Bank and Bank of Baroda -received cash in US dollars or dirham from the UAE.
  • Mabingela Investments was a company owned by Duduzane Zuma and Tony Gupta. It also received funds from the Estina dairy farm.
  • Mabingela Resources, Tegeta and Oakbay were also Gupta vehicles sued to launder money.

The Guptas were allegedly enabled to launder money from Estina by Mosebenzi Zwane, who was the MEC for Agriculture in the Free State. He identified Vrede, his hometown as the location of where the project should be based. The town also has a farming history. Ace Magashule was the premier of the Free State when the Estina scandal happened, with investigations placing him as one of the key figures who assisted the Guptas.

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