Concern over TradePort graft claims

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nt rohan persad (26754400) INLSA File photo: KZN Economic Development and Tourism MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu, right, congratulates Pablo Garcia, left. Rohan Persad is centre.

La Mercy, KwaZulu-Natal - Economic Development and Tourism MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu is to convene an urgent meeting with the Dube TradePort board following allegations that chief executive Rohan Persad is implicated in corruption involving millions of rand.

Mabuyakhulu’s spokesman Bheko Madlala said on Sunday that the allegations were being viewed in a serious light.

“Although the veracity of the allegations has not been tested, we are concerned about the reputational damage this might cause.”

The urgent meeting would “map a way forward”, Madlala said.

The allegations, reported by the Sunday Tribune, relate to Persad’s allegedly being involved in a corrupt relationship with Alex McRoberts, director of Worldwide Flight Services SA (WFS-SA), and to attempts to secure a 40 percent stake in WFS-SA, a company with a R50-million-a-year cargo handling contract at King Shaka International Airport.

The two allegedly set about finding ways for Persad to acquire a 40 percent stake in WFS-SA.

It appears there was an acrimonious bust-up and it is alleged that this led to the cancellation of WFS-SA’s contract at TradePort.

The Tribune said it had a trail of correspondence in which McRoberts confirmed the corrupt relationship with Persad.

In e-mails, McRoberts claimed that he had proof showing holidays, goods and cash that he had provided to Persad. Terms of the kickback plan included that McRoberts would, through WFS-SA, offer Persad 40 percent of the company.

In turn, Persad would help grow the value of WFS-SA by providing contracts.

WFS-SA would then be sold to WFS Global, at a later stage, at an estimated price of about R40 million and Persad would walk away with at least R15m.

The Tribune also had copies of e-mails in which Persad, on June 14 last year, asked McRoberts to buy his wife, Gilberte Marie, a return business-class ticket on British Airways to London as part of her 50th birthday celebrations.

McRoberts was asked to book Mrs Persad into hotels. Persad also asked McRoberts to procure camera equipment.

Opposition parties have called for an investigation into the allegations.

The IFP’s Roman Liptak said: “We hope the provincial government will investigate these claims…

“We have always had misgivings about Dube TradePort. It is not financially self-sufficient which opens the door for corruption.”

DA provincial leader Sizwe Mchunu said the allegations were disturbing.

“We will write to the public protector and ask that this matter be investigated,” Mchunu said.

Mchunu added that he would also like to engage with Premier Zweli Mkhize on the matter.

Bridgette Gasa, chair-woman of Dube TradePort, declined to comment.

Persad could not be reached for comment. - The Mercury

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