File image: Lucky Montana. (Picture Henk Kruger).

CAPE TOWN - Former Prasa CEO, Lucky Montana has responded to claims that he allegedly used funds from controversial contracts worth R4 billion for his R13.5 million property in Hurlingham, Johannesburg. 

According to a report by News24, Montana was involved in third-party business dealings which secured his R13.5 million high end home in Hurlingham. 

The report states that the 6 000m2 Johannesburg property was paid for by two transactions. One of the transactions from Portuguese businessman, Mario Ferreira and the other from Pretoria lawyer, Riaan van der Walt. 

The Hurlingham property which was transferred to Montana’s name in July 2015 was paid for by two separate payments, one of R2 million and another of R11.5 million.

The report says that one of the transactions was made by a trading company owned by Van Der Walt. His company reportedly paid R2 million towards the Hurlingham home.

In a statement issued by Montana, the former Prasa boss claims that News24 undertook an attack against him. 

Montana’s statement includes several claims against the news house, the ANC as well as Prasa officials. 

He begins by outlining his January 2018 testimony before Parliament’s Inquiry into State Capture at PRASA. According to Montana, this is where it all went wrong. 

Montana says that his appearance in Parliament was triggered by false statements made by Dikobe Ben Martins, ANC Member of Parliament and former Minister of Transport.

“I am satisfied that my testimony has achieved what I had set out to do in Parliament. I am on record at having said that if anyone out there has a different version or facts, let them approach Parliament and ask for the opportunity to present their testimony. I am absolutely certain that the facts in my testimony will stand the test of time”, says the statement.

The former Prasa boss goes on to claim that his testimony upset so many which in turn led to hitmen being hired to “eliminate” him. However, in a bid to prove that his testimony holds truth, Montana reaffirmed that he stands by his testimony. 

“I have been reliably informed that hitmen (“Inkabi”) from Msinga in KwaZulu-Natal, had been organised and paid with the sole purpose to eliminate me. I will never change my testimony even at the risk of death”, said Montana. 

ANC

Montana has also clarified his relationship with the ANC.  He said “I am not a veteran or senior leader of the ANC. I only came into contact with the ANC underground as a young student activist in 1987 during the political turbulence of the 1980s. I have served the party with absolute loyalty over the years and remain a disciplined member”. 

Prasa exit was a mistake 

Montana then said that he made a big mistake by staying at the passenger railway service, saying that he should have left earlier than March 15, 2015. 

“I should have left immediately because the knives were clearly out for me”. 

He further claims that Prasa collapsed after he left. According to Montana, after he left the embattled railway service, the focus was on capturing him, instead of focusing on the operations of the business. 

It all fell apart

Montana says that the latest report against him is a result of his name not being cleared. The former Prasa boss said that he failed to brief the media that Popo Molefe reportedly stabbed him in the back when he, along with his new Board, in Montana’s absence agreed that Montana should no longer serve the notice period agreed upon and that he should be released with immediate effect.

“I had planned a media briefing to give my side of the story to these developments. Ten (10) minutes before the start of the media briefing, I got calls from two of Ministers and a Deputy Minister asking me not to proceed with the media briefing. I respected the directive from the ANC and Government leadership and abandoned the media briefing. The leadership promised that they will meet and resolve the crisis at PRASA. Unfortunately, they failed to deal with the matter. I should have insisted on putting out the facts and my version back in July 2015. Today, I would not be subjected to this court of public opinion and therefore do not see the latest attack by News24 in isolation”, said Montana. 

R13.5 million property traced to Prasa contractor 

Montana claims that the latest report against him has been in the making for the past two months. 

“We know that News24, whilst in essence a reactionary mouthpiece of the white minority and dominant classes in our society, has also been used by ANC leaders to attack others leaders. The ANC is “leaking like a sieve” and News24, together with City Press, ENCA, Radio 702, Daily Maverick, etc, receive leaks on a daily basis about the internal politics of the ANC. This has nothing to do with the so-called “investigative journalism” they claim. The latest attack is more political than anything and is aimed at tarnishing my image with the new leadership of the ANC”, said Montana. 

The former boss questions why the media house is specifically angry with him, saying that since his testimony, they desperately searched and hoped to find “something against Lucky Montana” that will erase his testimony in Parliament. 

Montana claims that his testimony to Parliament exposed “big lies” that have been published about Prasa since 2015. He says that several stories that were published about Prasa prove to be false, as stated in his testimony. 

Montana added that the latest report accusing him of corruption is, in fact, old news. 

“The stories about “Montana’s houses” and the allegations on how these were funded by different contractors have been there since 2015”. 

“I dealt with all the properties I own on 8 February 2016 in response to an affidavit deposed to by Popo Molefe in a matter between PRASA and Siyangena Technologies. I had briefed the media about each and every property I owned since 1998 and provided details on how each of the properties was acquired. I explained how I used the properties acquired through my ABSA Private One (bond) Facility to further invest in other properties and create wealth. There is nothing unlawful about this common business practice. This includes the acquisition of the property in Sandhurst that News24 reported about this morning, which is identified in my statement as the “9th property purchased in 2015 in Hurlingham/Sandthurst”.

“I also explained in detail my relationship with Riaan Van der Walt during the media briefing where I indicated that “in respect of Riaan Van der Walt and Precise Trade, I confirm that I partnered with him and third parties to explore property investment as well as development opportunities such as guest houses, student accommodation, mixed residential development, etc”. In my statement, I specifically state that News 24 and its sister companies “seem to believe that I should not, like all South Africans, enjoy the right to buy and sell property, an inalienable right enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic”. Pieter-Louis Myburg did not attend the media briefing but his colleagues from News24, Beeld and Rapport attended the briefing”, added Montana. 

Contradiction

Montana said that News24 acknowledged that the first R2 million invested to secure the Sandthurst property came from the proceeds of the sale of his own property in Parkwood, which was acquired through a bond from ABSA.

“After bond cancellation, the proceeds of the sale belonged to no one else but Lucky Montana. It was my decision to invest the proceeds into the Sandthurst property and to find an investor or partner for the planned property development. This partner is Mitdtown brace”. 

“There is nothing corrupt or unlawful about this. This should settle the matter but of course this will not support the narrative or the “imaginary link” that News24 has been desperately trying to “create” for the past three (3) years between my properties and contractors”. 

Based on his claim of innocence, Montana said that he does not owe anyone any explanation regarding his "lawful property dealings". 

He added that he refuses to answer any of News24s questions and told them he was not interested in anything they publish now or in the future. 

3 lies told 

"Finally, I wish to focus on the three biggest lies that News24 has made in the latest attack on my reputation", said Montana. 

1. He claims that contrary to reports, he did disclose all of his property dealings to Parliament. 

"In page 48 of my testimony to Parliament, I provide a summary of my property dealings and specifically state “this was a relationship of two people who had invested in properties they owned to make money and pursue legitimate business” and that “this is absolutely lawful”. I answered questions during the testimony about my houses and the relationship I had with Riaan van der Walt. In addition, I did provide Parliament with my full statement of 8 February 2018 where I repudiated the allegations by Popo Molefe that these properties were bought on my behalf by Siyangena Technologies". 

2. Montana said that both Riaan van der Walt and Andre Wagner has never done business with Prasa. "There is no conflict of interest that I needed to declare", said Montana. 

3. Montana claims that there is no evidence provided on how a corrupt dealing was configured by him for self-enrichment. "I am not a Director of any of the companies mentioned in the sale of shares. There is no evidence provided on how this forms part of a corrupt scheme concocted by me to enrich myself. There is a lot of insinuation or innuendo that seeks to subject myself to a court of public opinion. Unfortunately, I will not give in to this", said Montana. 

He then goes on to call on News24 to try again and search for something more meaningful to destroy him. "They should go back and search for something meaningful to destroy Lucky Montana. For now, they have thrown their last remaining “spear” and have once again missed. I shall never be conquered!", said Montana. 

News24 Responds 

News24 Editor-In-Chief, Adriaan Basson said that News24 denies the claims that they are targeting Montana or the ANC.

“We deny that we are targeting Mr. Montana or the ANC. What we do is investigative journalism. We will not entertain his personal attacks on us. Instead of responding to the report, he chose to personally attack us”. 

“We will continue to investigate and afford him a fair chance to respond to the veracity of the reports against him”, concluded Basson. 

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- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE