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State capture: Joburg cash-in-transit company used to launder money

SA Express is at the centre of allegations of corruption and state capture in the aviation sector.
SA Express is at the centre of allegations of corruption and state capture in the aviation sector.

It branded itself as a cash-in-transit company but was instead used to launder money - including allegedly from the North West government and SA Express into accounts linked to a former manager at the airline.

This is according to new evidence heard at t he state capture commission on Monday, when Kalandra Viljoen, a businesswoman who owned and ran Asset Movement Financial Services (AMFS), testified on Monday.

AMFS, according to evidence before the commission, was at the heart of converting R9m in government and SA Express funds into cash - and further delivered it to entities linked to former SA Express commercial general manager, Brian van Wyk.

Since last week, the commission has heard evidence of how the North West department of community safety and transport management underhandedly struck a deal with SA Express to have the airline operate local routes to and from Mafikeng and Pilanesberg airports.

The deal - which is riddled with allegations of corruption and procurement irregularities - was allegedly envisaged to move up to R400m out of the North West government accounts and into SA Express accounts.

The commission believes that R97m of that total amount was siphoned off to various entities through a "detailed scheme of money laundering", which involved among others a company called Koroneka Trading and Investments, which was irregularly appointed to manage ground-handling services at both airports.

On Monday, Viljoen described her company as a cash-in-transit business based in Johannesburg. AMFS employed four drivers and other security personnel.

The business, before it was liquidated in March 2018, was moving about R500m a month for its various clients, said Viljoen.

But AMFS, as suggested by the commission's evidence leader Kate Hofmeyr, did not operate like a traditional cash-in-transit company at all. Instead, it was run like a bank, receiving money from a client via EFT and delivering the same amount back to the client in cash.

Describing a typical day at work, Viljoen said she would receive about 100 calls from clients who would request various amounts of cash. Viljoen would then wait for the client to deposit the money into AMFS's account. She would then place an order for cash with another company, SBV. Her drivers would go to SBV to pick up the cash before dropping it off with the client.

Viljoen would extract a small percentage of the total transaction as her own fee.

But her clients were not properly vetted. She explained that she interviewed her clients, visited their business premises or acquired essential documentation like ID numbers and tax certification documents. Based on "the feeling" she got about them, she would then decide whether or not to do business with them.

One of her clients was businessman George Markides, who ran a company trading under two names, Dedrego and ITH. It was through Markides, the commission heard, that R9m was moved into accounts linked to Van Wyk.

According to Viljoen, ITH was a goods export company based in eastern Johannesburg. The company had two premises: 23 Whittakers Way in Bedfordview (a house converted into office premises) and 56 Watt Road in Springs.

She said deliveries were made to the Bedfordview address but the Springs address was used on the invoices she issued to Markides. She said she had only ever visited the Bedfordview address and had been requested by Markides to invoice using the Springs address.

Viljoen said she never asked about the source of the company's money.

In May 2015, Markides allegedly requested R9m cash, with the reference "Koroneka". Viljoen testified that she was under the impression that the money came from ITH. However, the money was sent from Koroneka's accounts - and was received illicitly from the North West government and SA Express.

According to a flow diagram presented by the commission as a result of its investigations, AMFS delivered the cash to Markides and the money eventually found its way to entities linked to Van Wyk.

The commission will on Wednesday move to its next phase in its probe into corruption in South Africa's aviation sector. It will hear evidence on jet fuel procurement at SA Express and South African Airways from a company called EML Energy.

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