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Money laundering, lies & deceit: Mkhwebane's key findings against Ramaphosa

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane released the findings of her report at a briefing in Pretoria on Friday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announces his new Cabinet on 29 May 2019 at the Union Buildings. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane on Friday found President Cyril Ramaphosa deliberately misled Parliament in relation to a R 500,000 donation to his African National Congress (ANC) election campaign fund from Bosasa, currently known as African Global Operations.

Mkhwebane released the findings of her report at a briefing in Pretoria on Friday.

Here are some of the key findings Mkhwebane made against Ramaphosa on the election campaign donations he received.

A CONFLICT OF INTEREST IN OFFICIAL DUTIES

In November 2018, Ramaphosa responded to a question in which he claimed that the money was in fact payment to his son for services but he later corrected.

Mkhwebane said Ramaphosa deliberately misled the National Assembly “and thereby acted in violation of the provisions of the Executive Ethics Code and Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members’ Interest for Assembly and Permanent Council Members.

“Regarding whether President Ramaphosa improperly and in violation of the provisions of the Ethics Code and Disclosure of Members’ Interest for the National Assembly and Permanent Council Members exposed himself of any situation involving the risk of a conflict between his official duties and his private interest or used his position to enrich himself and his son through businesses owned by African Global Operations.”

Mkwebane’s report also found out that Ramaphosa personally benefitted from the Bosasa donation during his CR17 during his presidential campaign for the ANC back in 2017. Ramaphosa was still deputy president of the ANC at the time. “He was, therefore, duty-bound to declare such financial benefit accruing to him from the campaign pledges.” The report said that because he failed to disclose such information, he breached and violated the code.

Mkhwebane said she had evidence to prove that the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation also benefited from the money collected through the CR17 trust account. “President Ramaphosa’s failure to disclose financial interest which accrued to him, as a result of the donations towards the CR17 campaign constitutes as a violation of paragraph two of Executive Ethics Code, and accordingly amounts to conduct that is inconsistent with his office as a member of Cabinet as contemplated by Section 96 of the Constitution.”

BOSASA PAYOUT & SUSPECTED MONEY LAUNDERING

Mkhwebane found that there was an improper relationship between Ramaphosa, his family and Bosasa due to the nature of the R500,000 payout which passed through “several intermediaries” instead of a straightforward donation to the CR17 campaign, thus raising suspicion of money laundering.

Last month, opposition parties called for Ramaphosa to come clean on the donation he received from Bosasa. Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane questioned Ramaphosa about the donation. Ramaphosa responded to the question in Parliament last year, saying the money was paid for the services his son, Andile Ramaphosa, had rendered for Bosasa.

Days later, Ramaphosa then retracted the statement, saying the money was instead paid into the CR17 campaign trust account. This prompted Maimane to approach Mkhwebane to probe the matter.

Mkhwebane said she has decided to refer the matter to the relevant institutions for further investigation as according to Section 6(4) of the Public Protector Act.

From the evidence received by her office, Mkhwebane confirmed that the half a million rand payout to Ramaphosa’s election campaign came directly from former Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson as part of a R3 million lump sum into the account of Miotto Trading to the attorney’s trust account for the CR17 campaign, the EFG2 account.

“I can also confirm that large sums of money were transferred by various benefactors into the EFG2 account for the CR17 campaign where it was disbursed by the attorneys to several beneficiaries including Ria Tenda Trust, Linked Environmental Services and the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, to name a few.”

CLOSE TO A BILLION RAND MOVED THROUGH SEVERAL ACCOUNTS, POSSIBLE STATE CAPTURE?

Mkhwebane’s findings concluded that an amount of more than R191 million was deposited into the EFG2 Absa account between December 2016 and January 2018. During the same period, R190,108, 277, 00 was transferred out of the account.

Between January 2017 and February 2019 close to R400 million was deposited into and withdrawn from the Ria Tenda Trust.

Her findings also showed that an amount of more than R440 million was deposited into and withdrawn from the FNB-linked Environmental Services between 15 December 2016 and 13 February 2019.

“About R335,738.42 was transferred from the account into the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation between 20 July 2017 and 26 March 2018. Of all the donations for the campaign, records reflect that there were three single largest donations of R30 million on 9 March 2017: R39,620,000.00 on 29 September 2017 and R51,506,000.00 on the same date into the EFG2 Absa account, which came from the same donor.”

Mkhwebane said, when looked carefully, these transactions from created a situation of the risk of some sort of state capture by these private donors to for Ramaphosa’s election campaign.

**YOU KNEW WHO THE DONORS WERE **

Mkhwebane said the evidence collected contradicted the president’s claims about his knowledge of the donations.
Ramaphosa's campaign managers reportedly denied that the president had any knowledge or control over donations to his campaign saying Mkhwebane was confused about what the funds were used for.

In February this year, News24 reported that Ramaphosa issued an eight-page statement to the Public Protector in which he stated he was not aware that a payment had been made on behalf of Watson.

However, Mkhwebane said: “His explanation that he did not know about the donors and donations [are false]. He attended the dinners, he addressed the donors and there is evidence that he was actively involved speaking to some of the donors.”

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