Vintage Paul O’Sullivan confrontation outside Germiston Magistrate’s Court

Written by Ciaran Ryan. Posted in Journalism

Accusations all round, not just against Tubular Construction Projects boss Tony Trindade. From Moneyweb.

Duelling adversaries … attorney Robert Kanarek (left) and forensic investigator Paul O'Sullivan outside court on Wednesday. Image: Ciaran Ryan

Duelling adversaries … attorney Robert Kanarek (left) and forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan outside court on Wednesday. Image: Ciaran Ryan

Forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan, slayer of corrupt cops and their peers in business, has never been known for his delicate choice of words.

“You are being paid with stolen money and you should be in prison alongside your client,” he told Robert Kanarek, attorney for Tubular Construction Projects (TCP) boss Tony Trindade, outside the Germiston Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday. This was after Kanarek told journalists that O’Sullivan was an extortionist whose time was coming to an end.

Read: Top construction company accused of R20m Kusile bribes

The court appearance (held in camera) stems from a harassment complaint against O’Sullivan by Trindade in August. Trindade says that in February this year O’Sullivan started accusing him of acting fraudulently and corruptly and repeating these allegations to his legal representatives and those of his employer, TCP. He wants the court to stop O’Sullivan harassing him.

Read: More woes for Tubular as BEE partners apply for liquidation

The court hearing may have been in camera, but the altercation outside was very much in full view of the public.

“He’s going to jail,” said O’Sullivan, adding that Trindade and TCP were pivotal in the financial destruction of Eskom, and are alleged to have paid at least R20 million into a business account controlled by then Eskom contract manager Frans Hlakudi. A contract for the installation of air-conditioned condensers at the massively over-budget Kusile power plant was supposed to have gone to Alstom and sub-contractor DB Thermal, but allegedly went directly to Tubular. The contract value reportedly started at R708 million, according to Fin24, but ended up increasing to R1.2 billion. It had to come in below R750 million so Hlakudi could allegedly influence the outcome.

The story began in December last year when O’Sullivan was hired by TCP minority shareholder Brian Bestenbier to carry out a fraud and theft investigation against Trindade and TCP with a view to opening a criminal docket against him and recovering R1.4 billion in allegedly stolen funds. A criminal docket was opened in June against Trindade and others for corruption and racketeering.

Brian Bestenbier outside court on Wednesday. Image: Ciaran Ryan

Bestenbier told Moneyweb he was brought in as a BEE partner of TCP but received nothing in the way of dividends. He intends launching a civil case in the Johannesburg High Court to recover what he estimates to be between R60 million and R70 million in dividends that should have been paid to him. This is based on an estimated profit of between R300 million and R400 million supposedly earned by TCP.

‘Vast sums stolen’

“Our preliminary findings reveal that vast sums of money have been stolen from the company, which obviously causes enormous prejudice to our client [Bestenbier],” wrote O’Sullivan to Trindade in March this year.

In his replying affidavit, Trindade says O’Sullivan has no right to threaten and harass him while purporting to investigate him.

Outside the court, Trindade referred all questions to his lawyer. The case was postponed, with Trindade instructed to provide his replying affidavit by October 14, and O’Sullivan is required to provide further documentation to the court.

In his reply to Trindade’s harassment complaint, O’Sullivan placed an affidavit before the court saying Trindade had come before the court with unclean hands and was abusing the court process.

“I submit that [Trindade] is abusing this process deviously designed at attempting to gag me and thereby stave off his inevitable appointment with the criminal justice system,” says O’Sullivan’s affidavit. He denies the charge of harassment. Included in his affidavit were copies of invoices he managed to obtain from a source, with what he says are fake value-added tax numbers. The invoices were approved for payment with Trindade’s signature.

The invoices are from Hlakudi’s own company and are dated while he was employed at Eskom. According to O’Sullivan, this is the smoking gun that will see justice being served.

In his reply, Trindade accuses O’Sullivan of extortion since he “threatened to pursue a criminal case against me on behalf of his client [Bestenbier] unless I paid an exorbitant amount of money”.

“When I refused to so, he subsequently got his client to open a criminal charge against me.”

O’Sullivan is known to bait his targets with incendiary emails.

“You may think the slippery advice of a cagey lawyer that lives off the proceeds of crime will keep you out of prison, it won’t,” wrote O’Sullivan to Trindade.

Trindade adds: “O’Sullivan further referred to [convicted gangster] Radovan Krejcir’s dirty lawyers who attacked him on a regular basis in the hope of getting him off his tail.”

Bestenbier says as a director of TCP he signed off on the financial statements without being given full access to the true state of the company accounts.

Trindade says the harassment means he can no longer sleep or work. O’Sullivan’s reply: “If he is having sleepless nights it is because his prior criminal conduct is fast catching up with him and he knows that I know what he has done and will ensure that he gets his day in court to explain his involvement in bringing Eskom to its knees through systemic corruption.”

Kanarek says the case is not yet over and believes his client will ultimately prevail.

Ciaran Ryan

The Writer's Room is a curated by Ciaran Ryan, who has written on South African affairs for Sunday Times, Mail & Guardian, Financial Mail, Finweek, Noseweek, The Daily Telegraph, Forbes, USA Today, Acts Online and Lewrockwell.com, among others. In between he manages a gold mining operation in Ghana, and previously worked in Congo. Most of his time is spent in the lovely city of Joburg.