Johannesburg - Telecommunications network operator Neotel paid Gupta-linked letterbox company Homix R41 million for facilitating a R1.8 billion Transnet contract, yet its top executives claimed not to know the mysterious firm.

Deloitte audit partner Chetan Vaghela told the commission of inquiry into state capture that they became sceptical and suspicious when auditing Neotel’s books in 2015 and demanded an explanation for the R41m payment to Homix.

Vaghela said upon further inquiry auditors discovered that another R30m relating to a Cisco deal done earlier had also been paid by Neotel to Homix.

"We really wanted to know what Homix did to warrant such fees,” he told commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

According to Vaghela, auditors were highly sceptical and suspicious of the Homix payments and demanded to understand its commerciality.

He said the contract auditors were given was dated February 2015 but the event that led to Homix was in December 2014.

Vaghela said former Neotel chief financial officer Stephen Whiley told the auditors he did not know who Homix was and referred Deloitte to the company’s chief executive Sunil Joshi, who also claimed not to know the shelf company.

Homix had wanted 10% of the deal but Neotel could not afford that and it was negotiated down to 2%.

Neotel had paid 10% for the Cisco deal.

Transnet entered into a master service agreement with Neotel in December 2014 and Homix were involved in breaking an impasse between the two.

The commission has previously heard that Homix was paid R36m (excluding value-added tax) for facilitating the R1.8bn deal between Transnet and Neotel in December 2014.

Vaghela said Homix’s representative was Ashok Narayan, an ex-director of the Sahara Group of Companies, which is owned by the Guptas.

He said when the auditors discovered this it increased their worries about the commerciality of the fees and caused more doubt.

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