A Might 2020 donation of 100,000 face masks by Ithuba Holdings, operator of South Africa’s nationwide lottery, to the division of well being (DoH) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) is on the coronary heart of an alleged cash laundering scheme involving DoH contractor Digital Vibes.
Entities managed by Mkhize’s associates pocketed hundreds of thousands of rands on the again of the DoH’s R150-million Digital Vibes contract and Ithuba’s donation.
Among the funds had been allegedly laundered to corporations owned by Mkhize’s son, Dedani.
Scorpio’s newest investigation is supported by financial institution data, textual content messages and different paperwork.
Ithuba has strongly denied any wrongdoing.
Nevertheless, the corporate refused to reply a number of of our queries referring to the corporate’s position within the alleged scheme.
On 7 Might 2020, Mkhize, then deputy well being minister Joe Phaahla and police minister Bheki Cele, amongst others, attended a televised occasion at Ithuba’s workplaces in Sandton, Johannesburg.
Seth Phalatse, Ithuba’s chairperson, introduced that the corporate was donating 100,000 reusable material masks with SAPS and DoH emblems to help within the authorities’s battle towards Covid-19.
Cele and Mkhize each thanked Ithuba for its generosity.
On the floor, there was no cause to suspect that this was something aside from a charitable gesture from a well known firm.
Nevertheless, by the point the handover ceremony happened, Dedani Mkhize had already pocketed cash linked to the donation and the DoH’s Digital Vibes deal, as our investigation demonstrates.
A ‘scheme’ unmasked
The alleged scheme, so far as we may set up, kicked off roughly one month earlier than the media occasion at Ithuba’s workplaces.
On 6 April 2020, Dr Anban Pillay despatched a WhatsApp message to businesswoman Melany Viljoen, founding father of Tammy Taylor South Africa.
On the time, Pillay was the DoH’s appearing director-general.
Tammy Taylor is healthier identified for its chain of upmarket nail salons, however Pillay had heard that Viljoen’s enterprise may additionally supply face masks.
“Are you able to advise in your costs for a primary masks,” Pillay had texted Viljoen.
In one other textual content message, despatched on 8 April, Pillay requested Viljoen to electronic mail him a proper quote.
This seems to have been Pillay’s ultimate contribution to the alleged plot, a minimum of so far as we may set up.
After Tammy Taylor South Africa had despatched the quote to Pillay, they didn’t hear again from him.
As an alternative, the corporate was contacted by Tahera Mather, then minister Mkhize’s long-time affiliate and one of many masterminds behind the Digital Vibes deal.
Scorpio has seen among the emails from Mather.
She advised Tammy Taylor that Digital Vibes meant to order masks on behalf of the DoH, and she or he subsequently accepted a quote of R5,175,000 for 100,000 masks.
On 23 April, Viljoen’s firm emailed an bill to Mather, made out to Digital Vibes.
The bill got here at a perfect time.
The earlier week, Digital Vibes had obtained practically R8-million from the DoH, so it had loads of money at its disposal.
Sooner or later after it obtained the bill, Digital Vibes transferred R1-million to Tammy Taylor South Africa.
Additional funds adopted on 28 April (R2.4-million) and on 12 Might (R1.775-million).
After the final of the three funds, Tammy Taylor’s invoice of R5.175-million had subsequently been settled in full.
To all intents and functions, Digital Vibes was now the proprietor of the 100,000 masks. The gadgets had been paid for by Digital Vibes, utilizing monies that had come from the DoH.
So how did Ithuba find yourself donating these very masks to the DoH and the SAPS?
Sleight of hand
Within the days earlier than the handover ceremony at Ithuba’s workplaces, the masks had been delivered to the well being minister’s official residence in Waterkloof Ridge in Pretoria.
That is confirmed by a supply be aware with the exact tackle, signed by Mkhize’s then home employee.
The home employee has additionally deposed to an affidavit relating to the supply.
The affidavit is among the many Particular Investigating Unit’s (SIU) filings on the Particular Tribunal, the place it’s searching for to recuperate the monies paid to Digital Vibes.
“On the 4 Might 2020 [sic], round midday, a supply arrived on the premises. I went to examine and I used to be greeted by two Indian females who knowledgeable me that they’ve a supply of masks, for Minister Mkhize,” she acknowledged.
Based on the supply be aware, the ultimate batch of masks was delivered to Mkhize’s ministerial residence on the day earlier than the handover ceremony at Ithuba’s workplaces.
It’s not clear whether or not the masks had been distributed to DoH officers and SAPS members from the ministerial residence.
We additionally don’t know whether or not Ithuba at any level truly had the masks in its possession.
What we do know, nonetheless, is that Ithuba forked out R5.9-million for the masks — R725,000 greater than what Digital Vibes had paid Tammy Taylor South Africa.
That is in line with one of many few particular particulars Ithuba was prepared to disclose.
However the firm didn’t purchase the masks from Digital Vibes.
The lotto operator advised us it had purchased the gadgets from an organization known as Spin Wizards Communications Promoting and Digital Media.
In different phrases, there was a double fee: first, Digital Vibes, utilizing DoH cash, paid the provider, Tammy Taylor.
Then, shortly earlier than the handover ceremony, Ithuba paid Spin Wizards.
The impact of this curious association was that Spin Wizards pocketed practically R6-million with out having to pay anybody for the masks.
In different phrases, the cash Spin Wizards obtained was pure, 100% revenue.
This doubtful boon was made attainable by two issues:
First, Digital Vibes had to make use of a few of its personal revenues from the DoH contract to buy the masks from the precise provider, Tammy Taylor.
Second, for the meant donation, Ithuba had to purchase the masks particularly from Spin Wizards.
In a way, Ithuba was reimbursing Spin Wizards for masks that Digital Vibes had purchased with DoH funds.
We first grew to become suspicious about these dealings in March 2021 and puzzled how precisely Ithuba had stumbled upon Spin Wizards as its chosen provider.
The entity’s profile raised quite a few purple flags:
Spin Wizards’ director, one Mavis Ndlovu, couldn’t be reached by cellphone, and she or he by no means responded to textual content messages.
The corporate additionally didn’t have enterprise premises, a web site or a presence on any social media platform promoting its masks or different merchandise.
Ithuba didn’t share our considerations.
“Not having an organization web site or on-line presence is on no account a key standards (sic) that we’d see as a disqualifying issue for us to not assist a enterprise,” Nomakhosi Mbatha, Ithuba’s spokesperson, stated in an electronic mail in April 2021.
Ithuba emphasised that it was on no account concerned in any suspicious or corrupt transactions.
However the firm remained tight-lipped about how precisely it had recognized Spin Wizards as a provider.
We requested for particular particulars.
However aside from sending us the quantity it had paid Spin Wizards, Ithuba would solely make broad feedback relating to its interactions with suppliers.
“We want to verify that now we have strict processes in place when appointing new suppliers,” the corporate wrote in a letter in August 2021.
And: “On this occasion, this particular provider met all our vetting and accreditation necessities and was appointed because the provider…”
Based on Ithuba, the explanation it couldn’t present particular particulars pertaining to its dealings with Spin Wizards was this: “We respect the privateness and confidentiality of knowledge of all our suppliers and subsequently we aren’t at liberty to share supplier-related data.”
Within the face of this reticence, we’ll need to maintain questioning precisely how Ithuba stumbled upon its obscure provider.
Did somebody immediate the corporate to purchase the masks from Spin Wizards?
Somebody from Digital Vibes, maybe, and even Dr Zweli Mkhize?
And, if this had been the case, why would Ithuba conform to successfully funnel cash to Spin Wizards by the use of the masks deal?
Spin Wizards linked to Digital Vibes
Because it turned out, we had each proper to be suspicious about Spin Wizards.
In August 2021, we obtained essential data proving that Spin Wizards was no atypical provider.
Spin Wizards was, actually, intimately linked to Mateta Tasks, one of many entities concerned within the Digital Vibes saga.
We have now beforehand revealed how Mateta Tasks funnelled bits of the Digital Vibes loot to the Mkhize household.
R1m from Digital Vibes deal bankrolled hair salon, nail boutique for Minister Zweli Mkhize’s son, daughter-in-law
What we subsequently learnt was this: On a number of events all through 2020, Mateta had paid a small wage to Mavis Ndlovu, Spin Wizards’ sole director.
This gave us good cause to suspect that Ndlovu wasn’t actually the hand that was controlling Spin Wizards.
As an alternative, it appeared possible that Spin Wizards was a entrance entity that had been set as much as funnel funds to the principle position gamers concerned within the Digital Vibes affair.
As we’ll see, that is precisely what had occurred.
We requested Ithuba if it knew that its masks provider was linked to Mateta Tasks or to the latter’s director, Mdu Mthethwa.
We additionally puzzled if Ithuba had maybe been involved with Mthethwa relating to the masks deal, or with anybody else related to Digital Vibes.
“On the subject of our verification course of at Ithuba we are able to verify that now we have no hyperlink nor can we affiliate Mr Mdu Mthethwa to the service supplier,” the corporate responded.
New monetary data
On Ithuba’s model of occasions, Spin Wizards was only a random provider of masks.
It claimed it was not conscious of the entity’s hyperlinks to people related to Digital Vibes, and it definitely didn’t willingly partake in any doubtful scheme.
Nevertheless, Ithuba can not deny the startling circulate of funds we finally managed to piece collectively, partly due to extra monetary data the SIU obtained.
These data, additionally filed on the Particular Tribunal, helped to disclose the next:
Of the practically R6-million Ithuba had paid Spin Wizards, nearly R5-million was funnelled to one in every of Tahera Mather’s entities, Composit Commerce and Investments, and to Mthethwa’s Mateta Tasks.
Crucially, Composit Commerce and Investments and Mateta Tasks then forwarded chunks of this cash to entities owned by Dedani Mkhize.
The timing and sequence of those transactions are extremely suspicious.
It appears all however sure that Ithuba’s masks provider, Spin Wizards, was certainly nothing however a conduit for monies forwarded to different entrance entities concerned within the Digital Vibes affair.
Comply with the masks cash
The R5.9-million from Ithuba confirmed up in Spin Wizards’ account on 25 April 2020.
Spin Wizards instantly began transferring a few of this cash to Mather’s Composit Commerce and Investments, the monetary data confirmed.
Between 25 April and 13 Might, a interval of roughly two weeks, Spin Wizards transferred R3.3-million to Composit.
This was completed in a sequence of a minimum of 11 separate transactions.
Ranging between R100,000 and R800,000, the string of transfers had all of the hallmarks of a traditional “smurfing” operation.
In cash laundering parlance, “smurfing” is the act of transferring a big chunk of cash from one account to a different by the use of a number of smaller transactions.
That is completed to keep away from the type of consideration one may entice by transferring, say, greater than R1-million in a single go.
Dedani Mkhize shared in these spoils nearly proper from the beginning.
By 2 Might 2020, Spin Wizards had already transferred R1.2-million of the Ithuba money to Mather’s Composit Commerce and Investments.
On that day, after one other R100,000 had landed in Composit’s account, the latter entity transferred R300,000 to All Out Buying and selling, one of many corporations owned by the previous minister’s son.
Mateta ma Likelihood
Monies stemming from Ithuba’s fee to Spin Wizards flowed to Mthethwa’s firm, Mateta Tasks, similarly.
And, like Composit Commerce and Investments, Mateta additionally made funds to corporations owned by Dedani Mkhize.
Within the roughly two weeks between 4 Might and 15 Might 2020, Spin Wizards “smurfed” practically R1.5-million to Mateta Tasks.
Two weeks after the final fee on this sequence of six transactions, Mateta Tasks paid R105,000 to Tusokuhle Farming, Dedani Mkhize’s agriculture enterprise.
And in June 2020, Mateta, via a number of transactions, additionally transferred R370,000 to All Out Buying and selling, Mkhize Jr’s different entity.
The funds to Dedani Mkhize’s entities had been a minimum of partly bankrolled with the funds Spin Wizards had forwarded to Mateta Tasks.
Throughout that timeframe, Mateta had additionally obtained massive funds straight from Digital Vibes.
The Ithuba money that Spin Wizards had transferred to Mateta had subsequently been combined with the monies Mateta obtained from Digital Vibes.
These co-mingled funds enabled Mateta to pay Mkhize’s entities.
Ithuba could plead innocence relating to its involvement in any deliberate scheme, however it could’t deny the truth that among the proceeds from its cope with Spin Wizards discovered its solution to the previous well being minister’s son.
Many of the people concerned in these dealings ignored our makes an attempt to get their enter.
Mthethwa, Mateta’s proprietor, didn’t reply to our queries.
Neither did Dedani Mkhize.
We reached out to Dr Zweli Mkhize for remark, however he didn’t reply.
To one of the best of our data, Mather has left South Africa. She didn’t reply to messages and couldn’t be reached for remark.
Pillay learn our queries relating to his position within the masks transaction, however he selected to not tackle them.
He stated our questions wanted to be directed on the DoH, seeing as he’s an worker of the division.
In one in every of its statements, Ithuba stated: “If there was something to cover on our half, definitely, we’d by no means have ventured into making a public occasion of it.”
But the corporate received’t inform us particularly the way it recognized Spin Wizards as a provider.
One may perceive why Ithuba may need to conceal that tidbit.
In any case, its obscure provider has been unmasked as a entrance, casting doubt over the legitimacy of Ithuba’s dealings with Spin Wizards.
Beneath are Ithuba’s full responses: DM