Eskom said on Thursday it will ask the North Gauteng High Court this month to liquidate consultancy firm Trillian in an attempt to recoup money owed to it.
Eskom said in a statement Trillian Management Consulting and Trillian Capital Partners had failed to pay back R600 million ($39 million) “that Eskom had irregularly paid to the entities during 2016.”
Eskom has debt of about R450 billion, mostly backed by the government, and is struggling to service the interest on its borrowing due to falling revenue and its access to capital markets has been constrained by years of mismanagement.
In June Eskom approached the North Gauteng High Court, seeking an order setting aside and declaring as null and void Eskom’s payment to the Trillian entities. In October the court granted the order, and ordered the Trillian entities to pay back the money within five days.
The money was part of the R1.6 billion earned by global consultancy McKinsey and Trillian from an Eskom contract to advise the state utility.
In 2018 South African authorities demanded that McKinsey and Trillian pay back the money as officials investigated whether McKinsey knowingly let funds from the utility be diverted to Trillian as a way of securing the deal to advise Eskom in 2016.
The firm was at the time controlled by Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, three brothers close to former President Jacob Zuma, who have all been accused of using their friendship to fraudulently win government contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
All parties have denied any wrongdoing.
In 2018 McKinsey paid back more than R1 billion, including interest, to Eskom.
“Eskom has a moral duty and legal obligation to do everything it can to claw back all the monies which were illegally paid out during the height of State Capture,” Eskom group Chief Executive André de Ruyter said in a statement.
“This case is only one of the many in which Eskom’s management will attempt to recoup what is due to the people of South Africa.”
Trillian attempted to appeal the October order but the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed its application in February.
The law provides for an unpaid creditor to approach the court to force the debtor to pay back money owed to it through a winding-up order.