OPINION | Miscreants live big in gangster paradise

The Gupta brothers, Ajay and Atul.
The Gupta brothers, Ajay and Atul.
Image: File

It seems no other country beats sunny SA if you’re looking to pursue a career in crime, white-collar crime in particular.

The more educated the criminal is, the more lucrative the career can be, it seems. Just ask McKinsey which, since 1995, has been masquerading as a consulting agency in SA helping companies maximise the impact of their endeavours.

Check the notorious Gupta and Zuma families.

Even international fugitives have chosen SA as a host for many years, particularly since the dawn of democracy. In large part, we haven’t disappointed them.

That is, until the luck of the criminal in question runs out. Even then, they can drag the process of extradition out until they find an escape route to some other backwater in Asia or South America.

Among the lesser white-collar criminals to have taken advantage of our sunny shores, weak law-enforcement agencies and accommodating justice system are Vito Palazzolo, who escaped a nine-year jail sentence in Italy for his work for the Mafia, and Radovan Krejcir, who fled from a 25-year jail sentence for violent and organised crime in his native Czech Republic to settle in Johannesburg.

After the Czech authorities rudely disrupted Krejcir at the genesis of his career (he’d made the equivalent of only R65-million at the time), Krejcir started over in our friendlier climes.

Now, having run out of friends in high places, he is serving a 35-year term in Kokstad for murder and kidnapping.

It was the same story with German fraudster Jurgen Harksen, who settled in Cape Town and conned wealthy residents out of millions, until he was finally extradited in 2002.

But it is looting of the white collar variety I want to discuss. McKinsey has just received its biggest cache of loot yet, in addition to the hundreds of millions it would have scored from Transnet and other state companies.

The new management of Eskom has just gifted McKinsey at least R1-billion. Of the R1.6-billion Eskom paid to McKinsey and its partners in crime, the Gupta-linked Trillian Capital, Eskom continues to allow McKinsey to pocket a large part.

This is because Eskom’s management says it is content with receiving only R902-million back from McKinsey.

Not the balance of the capital. Not the interest, which now amounts to over R320-million at the prime lending rate of 10% a year.

The money was stolen with the connivance of the crooks who worked at, but not for, the utility until early this year.

Given the scale of the looting, you’d be forgiven for thinking McKinsey is one of many international organisations that operates along the lines of an organised crime syndicate.

In the Eskom and Transnet cases, money laundering was the chosen vehicle to siphon money from the state, as bribes were deposited in shelf companies. All of this was done under the guise of providing valuable professional expertise.

KPMG, which appears to have been masquerading as an auditing firm for years, is another. Under the watchful eye of KPMG’s partners, the VBS Mutual Bank has been bled to certain death. Yet the Guptas, KPMG’s clients for a decade, are now living large in Dubai, seemingly at the expense of the people of SA.

Duduzane Zuma, the son of former president Jacob Zuma, will no doubt join them again soon.

We have many other homegrown megacriminals. Just the thought of Steinhoff makes me shudder. Yet all these miscreants, be they from McKinsey, KPMG, Eskom or elsewhere, are enjoying our hospitality and climate, with not a care in the world.

While I, a lowly journalist, cannot arrest any of them, I shall do my best to retrieve every cent owed by McKinsey.