SA Express manager 'hijacked' business

Babadi Tlatsana, who ran a small company before scoring a big airport deal which she later discovered was part of a state capture exercise.
Babadi Tlatsana, who ran a small company before scoring a big airport deal which she later discovered was part of a state capture exercise.
Image: Amil Umraw

The state capture inquiry yesterday heard how millions of rand flowed through a small North West company irregularly put in charge of ground handling services at the Mafikeng and Pilanesberg airports in 2015.

The money was then laundered to shelf companies owned by individuals connected to SA Express (SAX) bosses.

This is according to the testimony of Koroneka Trading and Projects director Babadi Tlatsana, who told the commission that her company was "hijacked" by SA Express commercial manager Brian van Wyk and used as a conduit to siphon money from SA Express and the North West government.

The commission previously heard how the North West's department of community safety and transport management had underhandedly struck a deal with SA Express to have the airline operate local routes to and from each airport.

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 and into SA Express.

The commission believes R97m of that total amount was siphoned off to various entities through a "detailed scheme of money laundering" which involved Koroneka.

When she began her testimony on Friday, Tlatsana said the daily running of her company was taken over by people Van Wyk forced her to appoint, and she had no knowledge of the transactions being made - aside from SMS notifications from the bank on transactions which had occurred.

Outlining those payments, Tlatsana said Koroneka - which started off as a small delivery company carting vegetables and meat to hospitals in Mafikeng - first received R8.5m on May 6 2015, from SA Express as part payment for its ground handling services.

Soon afterwards, R2m left the account. On May 7, a series of payments were made to a Mr P Papitis. They included payments of R660,000, R700,000, R320,000 and R320,000. Tlatsana claimed Van Wyk told her Papitis was contracted to do repairs at both airports.

Four days later, another R2m was paid to an entity called Movement and Finance. A total of R6m had now left the account.

Then, R500,000 was paid to another entity called EL Skakona for what Tlatsana claimed Van Wyk had said was a consultancy fee.

Tlatsana's personal benefit included a R500,000 payment into the account of another business owned by her.

Koroneka then received another R8.5m payment from SA Express in August that year.

A month later, R5m was diverted out of the account.

Van Wyk apparently told Tlatsana it was to pay stakeholders, purchase fire trucks and install security cameras at both airports.

"The business was hijacked in the beginning because a lot of things were happening . I would not know, I would just see on the phone that money has gone," Tlatsana said.
- TimesLIVE

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