The spy who got Zuma off the hook

Notorious tapes used to quash 783 charges against President may have been enginereed by Number One’s cronies.

International man of mystery, codenamed “Luciano” – the star actor on the so called “Spy Tapes” which got President Jacob Zuma off 783 charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering – has popped up again, this time as a “Council Member” of the mysterious African Union Foundation headed by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Over the past several years, numerous sources, from former colleagues to South African law enforcement agencies, have confirmed that “Luciano” is one Andries “André” Pienaar – a mysterious and some say dangerous free-lance intelligence operator who spins a supremely plausible tale.

He started his career with international investigators, Kroll and soon became head of their South African operation where, in the early years of ANC rule they got themselves signed up as secret advisors to any number of government departments.

André Pienaar (aka 'Luciano')

In 2004 Pienaar decided to break with Kroll and started up his own private investigations company in London called Good Governance Group, “G3” for short. (See Luciano's charmed circle below for its fascinating history.) Picking up on old connections and his claims to have been a long-standing member of the ANC, Pienaar soon established a branch of G3 in South Africa and, within a few years, was a multi-millionaire.

Fast-forward to the present: The African Union Foundation is a free-flying satellite of the African Union, operating with little or no supervision from AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. According to an AU document, the African Union Foundation was registered in Mauritius in January 2014.

But, curiously, a not-for-profit company called African Union Foundation was registered in South Africa in September 2015. It’s operations are, in fact, directed from an office in Midrand. Official records show that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma resigned as a director on 15 May this year – around the time her candidacy to succeed her ex-husband as president became publicly known.

The foundation website appears designed to boost the president’s ex-wife’s image and lists many worthies, including Cheryl Carolus and the former president of Jamaica, as “Council Members”. Since first being tipped as a presidential hopeful, Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign has made much of the allegedly sterling work she did while head of the AU. (Many beg to differ, describing her performance as, at best, lacklustre.) The African Union Foundation pushes the line that her time at the AU was extremely productive and that she is a great statesperson.

The foundation’s website boasts thus: “Launched in January 2015 following approval at the 21st Ordinary Assembly of Heads of States and Government in May 2013, the AU Foundation raises funds from the private sector and individuals on the continent and beyond towards the financing of African development priorities”.

The foundation uses the website and email address The AU has the website to the AU revealed that nobody answering the switchboard in Addis Ababa had heard of an African Union Foundation. Nor is it mentioned on the AU website where all the AU’s agencies and divisions are listed.

The sudden appearance of André Pienaar – the real name of “Luciano” – as a key figure in the African Union Foundation, and by implication in the NDZ election campaign, is certain to raise eyebrows.

Ever since Zuma escaped his many corruption charges the well-informed have speculated how on earth veteran prosecutor Leonard McCarthy and “Luciano” – an astute private intelligence agent – could have let themselves be recorded plotting against Zuma using infantile “codenames” on phones they had every reason to suspect were monitored. And, having been caught at it, after Zuma’s ascent to power, they could have expected his wrath and revenge to be visited upon them by his loyal cronies. It hasn’t happened.

At the time, Pienaar was said to be acting as a proxy for Thabo Mbeki in colluding with McCarthy to bring down Zuma. However, more recent developments – and closer scrutiny of company records from that time – suggest that Pienaar was far more likely a proxy of Jacob Zuma than of Thabo Mbeki. In which case the recorded conversations may well have been a deliberate set-up.

In early April 2009 Mokotedi Mpshe, then head of the National Prosecuting Authority called a press conference to announce he would be withdrawing all 783 charges against Jacob Zuma. Mpshe claimed that he was forced to withdraw the charges as he had found “devastating evidence of collusion” between former prosecuting authority officials – mainly Leonard McCarthy – and President Thabo Mbeki. McCarthy was at the time the head of the Directorate of Special Operations – the Scorpions.

The collusion, which has since been rubbished by the Supreme Court of Appeal, supposedly involved proxies of Mbeki colluding with McCarthy and others to abuse the prosecutorial process in order to wreck Zuma’s political ambitions. Mpshe released some intercepted conversations between McCarthy and others, including a particularly damning one with a mystery man named “Luciano”, about whom Mpshe said: “As far as can be established, ‘Luciano’ is a private intelligence operative.”

 When the NPA released transcripts of some of these conversations, notes were appended to them pointing out that “Luciano” was “believed to be close to Mbeki”.

Among the conversations were a series between “Luciano” and McCarthy where code names were used for  for prominent politicians and “Luciano” showed off his knowledge of Latin. Mpshe identified the man referred to as “Ouboet” as disgraced former police commissioner Jackie Selebi, while “Oujan” was code for then presidential hopeful Jacob Zuma. McCarthy complains to then still mysterious “Luciano” that he has been advised to give Selebi and Zuma “a break” in the interests of South Africa – in other words to let them escape prosecution.

 In the first conversation McCarthy mentions that Selebi and Zuma’s legal teams are asking for a review of their cases, and threatening to expose “number one” – at the time meaning Mbeki. To quote the transcript:

 Discussion with person in private intelligence industry about seemingly political solutions to NPA cases:

18. Date 16.12.07 SMS exchange between Luciano and LM:

LM: I have been advised to give Ouboet & Oujan a break in the interest of SA. Tenous times. QV

L: What did Jesus say? Give to the emperor what is due to him and to the church what is due to her. You serve at the pleasure of the emperor. Any other choice would mean not serving at the pleasure of the emperor.

LM: I hear you emperor sir. They’re asking for a review. What ...

L: Primus salus amicus et familia. (Honour first your friends and family) That’s the motto.

LM: Yea. Threatening to expose no. 1.

The second intercepted conversation has Luciano discussing how he can help McCarthy by organizing international lawyers who are “sympathetic”, to sit on the review panels and would also, in the case of Selebi, “deal decisively” with Paul O’Sullivan – the maverick private investigator who hounded Selebi and produced much of the evidence used to convict him.

 19. Date 17.12.07 SMS exchange between Luciano and LM.

L: Thought overnight 1. Recommend we help you find two sympathetic and credible international lawyers that can join each of the two reviews.

 2. International component important for SA’s reputation and your own. If carefully selected will support objective.

3. In Ouboet’s case need international component to deal decisively with O’Sullivan factor. Matter also high profile given K allegations, media interest and focus on crime in lead up to 2010.

4. I.r.o Oujan recommend a comprehensive review is done of ALL MLA and prosecution cases flowing from arms deal, not just his by review panel with international lawyers as you originally recommended.

5. You can then deal with Oujan in context of broader review.

6. If you are going to do this in interest of SA, recommended you request

6.1 [
That] You submit review report to Special Committee of four ministers – justice, intel, foreign affairs and safety and security. Do not take sole responsibility. Yr current line management structure will result in sole responsibility. 6.2 Recommend you come to clear agreement about SAG support for the next phase of yr career including a date.

6.3 You are going to need resources incl special budget because, above all, the media will have to be managed locally and globally. End.

An aside: Luciano’s was the name of an Italian restaurant near the offices of British investigations company G3, The Good Governance Group, where Leonard McCarthy and G3’s controlling member – André Pienaar – could often be spotted lunching. André Pienaar appears to have adopted the name of their favourite eatery.

Despite what Mpshe alleged at his press conference, there is a fair amount of circumstantial evidence to suggest Pienaar was more likely to be close to Zuma than to Mbeki. His company employed a close relative of Nkosazana Zuma as their South African representative, while one of Zuma’s nephews was on the payroll of G3 in London.

Good Governance Group UK (G3) was established in London on 27 February 2004. Its first listed director was Mungo Soggot (son of human rights lawyer David Soggot SC, famous for having defended both Steve Biko and Winnie Mandela), for several years prior an investigative journalist on the Mail&Guardian.

Within weeks, Andries Daniel Faber Pienaar – the true owner – also signed on as a director, and another Mail&Guardian luminary, former editor Phillip van Niekerk, was signed up as a member of the team.

As former head of the Africa branch of international investigators, Kroll, Pienaar was by then supremely well-connected – to the point that he could get heavyweights like former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Chester Crocker to serve on his company’s board.

(As a member of President Ronald Reagan’s cabinet in the 1980s, Crocker was famous for promoting a policy of “constructive engagement” with the apartheid government. See box story on how Pienaar managed to access UK high-society.)

Mungo Soggot, too, was no mean asset when it came to connections in the right places, both in ANC South Africa and in Conservative Britain: he had his schooling in London at Westminster, the school most favoured by England’s urban aristocracy. One of his classmates was George Osborne, who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Cameron cabinet from 2010-2016.

On 15 December 2004 Good Governance Group launched its South African operation. Described as a “political risk and business intelligence consultancy”, G3(SA) had only one director at the time – Wandile Nxele.

While he had no experience as an investigator, Nxele was excellently placed for a political risk consultancy job: he is a nephew of President Jacob Zuma, is close to many businessmen in the BEE sphere, and was involved in a number of business ventures in mining and resources.

The members and directors of G3 (UK) were all well-known businessmen and investigators but almost nothing can be found about Pienaar on the internet – and none of his companies show his photograph. The African Union Foundation website says only this: “André Pienaar is a private investor in specialist areas of technology. He is a founder of C5 Capital Limited. He is a trustee of several African charities.” All the foundation’s council members are pictured – except for Pienaar.

The website of Pienaar’s latest corporate adventure, C5 Capital, has photographs of each of the senior managers and directors of the firm, but has a company logo standing in for André – who is described as a “founder”. There is no indication as to whether he is a director or a shareholder in the firm.

Some of the personalities on the C5 website were also once directors of G3 Good Governance Group – notably Graeme Lamb and Jamie Lowther Pinkerton, both ex-senior British army officers with long experience in the British special forces. The pair are listed as “strategic partners” of C5.

G3 also featured some security and public service heavyweights on its board. Curiously, while Chester Crocker is widely reported in the media as having been chairman of the board of G3, all references to him have been removed from the G3 website. Crocker remains a senior executive at the World Bank.

The small biographical précis for André Pienaar on the C5 Capital website reads:

“André is an entrepreneur and private investor with a record of building and leading fast-growing businesses. He is the founder of the Good Governance Group, a leading international strategic advisory firm. Previously he built and led Kroll’s Africa & Natural Resources Division out of London. André is an advocate of the Supreme Court of South Africa.”

Former colleagues claim that Pienaar studied law at the University of Aberystwyth in Wales, but to practice law in South Africa he would need an LLB law degree from a South African university, and no trace could be found of an Andries Pienaar on any LLB graduate list. The High Court roll of admitted advocates shows no André or Andries Pienaar.

Almost as intriguing: in September 2007 when the ANC resolved to close down the Scorpions – and, as it happens, not long before the conversations between McCarthy and “Luciano” were recorded – McCarthy told colleagues he was considering taking up a job abroad. Ironically, crime boss Glenn Agliotti was the first to reveal that McCarthy wanted to leave South Africa and move his family to France. McCarthy told associates at work that he had received job offers from the World Bank and from “risk consulting” firm Kroll in France.

In March 2008 he announced that he was leaving to take up a job at the World Bank in the USA. His lucrative position there, as vice president in charge of combatting corruption, saw him reporting directly to Pienaar’s friend Chester Crocker, chairman of the advisory board of the World Bank – and then also still the chair of G3 Good Governance Group.

McCarthy has never publicly commented on the “Luciano” tapes, and as far as can be ascertained the World Bank has neither investigated him nor passed any comment.

What of erstwhile reporter and G3 founder-director Mungo Soggot? Approached for comment, Soggot sent Noseweek the following email: “I can’t comment about specific clients or work at G3. André was the driving force at G3, which grew rapidly. Within the company, there was a range of experiences, and on some matters we had differing views. I decided to leave in 2010.”

Pienaar is said to have sold his interest in G3 to a Swedish bank in 2012 – allegedly for more than £20m – but stayed on until 2014.

A competitor tells Noseweek that Pienaar earned a major part of his considerable fortune acting for “oil interests” and, latterly, for Russian clients.

Private investigator Paul O’Sullivan, among the first to work out the true identity of “Luciano”, says of Pienaar: “He’s a bloody crook and an intelligence player of note.”

Since leaving G3 Pienaar has been active in at least one business start-up in South Africa – the aforementioned C5 Capital – and is said to be very close to the Zuma presidency.

There has been no attempt by the South African authorities to question McCarthy – not even after Jacob Zuma, the alleged victim of the recorded conspiracy, came to power and appointed his trusted allies to the National Prosecuting Authority. The fact that “Luciano” is now associated with Jacob Zuma’s anointed successor – and proxy – suggests there may be a lot more to the spy tapes story than anyone previously imagined.

• In March this year the African Union Foundation launched its African Economic Platform at a conference in Mauritius. Among honoured guests at the conference were President Robert Mugabe, Dr Kelvin Kemm (long-time promoter of nuclear interests and Zuma appointee as chairman of Necsa), and Vuyani Jarana, CO of the Vodacom Group.

• In July, at the 25th AU Summit  in Johannesburg, Robert Mugabe, presented the foundation with a cheque for US$1m.

Anyone for tennis?

Luciano’s charmed circle

Andries “André” Pienaar is a director of only one company registered in South Africa, called ParcelNinja.

Other directors and former directors include Arno Robbertse and Pieter Bernardus “Bernard” Pienaar (André’s brother).

Robbertse is a cyber security expert, and is currently also a Managing Partner of G3 Good Governance Group. Bernard Pienaar was also a director of Iku Investments, which was deregistered in 2013. A co-director of Iku Investments was Wandile Nxele (sole director of G3 Good Governance Group South Africa.)

Still more intriguing: previous directors of Iku Investments include Hlula Msimang and Thembekile Kunene. Msimang is a former head of the Johannesburg Metro Police and is presently standing trial for two murders. He is the son of former ANC Treasurer General Mendi Msimang and former ANC cabinet minister Manto Tshabalala Msimang. 

Kunene  is a director of the IDC.

Wandile Nxele’s Twitter account includes a link to a company called Iku Capital, but Noseweek could find no trace of a company of that name ever being registered in SA.

It could be established however, that Iku Capital did once have a website which claimed:

We interface between governments, multi-lateral institutions, developmental institutes, equity partners and businesses across the globe. The breadth and depth of our service offering is unparalleled …

A June 2016 article in Business Day linked Iku Capital to some potentially suspicious business dealings in Mozambique. That story named Nhlanhla Magubane as the founder of Iku Capital. Magubane has been described as the “Secretary General of South Africa-China People’s Friendship Association” on a website of the South Africa-China Economy and Trade Association.

Other news stories named Ellen Tshabalala – notorious for having forged her CV when applying for the position of chairman of the SABC board – as chairperson of Iku Capital (as also asserted in that notorious CV).

True or not, Ms Tshabalala clearly thought it would be seen as a recommendation in presidential circles.

More credibly, Tshabalala has been named in the media as being a girlfriend of Jacob Zuma. She serves on the board of a number of state owned companies and is the president’s official advisor on black economic empowerment.

Luciano abroad

So, just how did André Pienaar manage to persuade the likes of Chester Crocker, the famed US diplomat to serve on his company’s board?

For a start, it helped to have the right clients. In London one of the first Pienaar signed up was the Duke of Westminster, Gerald Grosvenor, the largest landowner in that great city.  The dear old Duke had a bad reputation for chasing high class call girls – and the fortune to be among the wealthiest men in Britain.

When the Duke was involved in a blackmail scandal involving a gorgeous young Russian lady of dubious reputation, André stepped in and solved the problem by investigating, then threatening to expose, the call girl and her associates. The Duke, since deceased, was apparently ever so grateful – and got Pienaar an invitation to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. It also earned him the company of men who were close to the British crown and aristocracy – and to British Minister of Defence Liam Fox.

In October 2011 it was revealed that Pienaar had been bankrolling Adam Werritty – the travelling companion and special friend of Fox, by setting up a bogus charity which claimed to benefit Sri Lankan reconstruction but was used to channel money to Werritty. Liam Fox resigned soon after this became public.

In October 2011 The UK Daily Telegraph wrote: “André Pienaar, a multi-millionaire who keeps out of the public limelight, runs G3 Good Governance Group, a corporate security and intelligence company whose clients include defence contractor BAE Systems.

“In a lucrative industry reliant on insider information and expertise, Mr Pienaar has made it his business to be well-connected. The chairman of G3’s advisory board is the Duke of Westminster. As a result, Mr Pienaar received an invite to the wedding ceremony as a guest of Buckingham Palace.”

Lieutenant General Sir Graeme Lamb (KBE, CMG, DSO etc etc) a former director of UK Special Forces, is also listed as a G3 special advisor, while Lord Macdonald, a former director of public prosecutions, is a non-executive director of Proven, an investigatory arm of G3.

Geoffrey Tantum, a former MI6 Middle East director with wide-ranging connections, is on the advisory council. Mr Tantum’s daughter Laura operates Universal Exports, G3’s charitable foundation. This is also the name of the fictitious company used as a cover by James Bond.

“Bahrain Watch,” an NGO and website that monitors the kingdom of Bahrain, appears to have been the first to blow the whistle on Lt Gen Lamb, writing: “G3 was hired by the Bahrain government’s Information Affairs Authority in July 2011 for a sum of £1.5 million. G3 was tasked with developing a “media campaign to support Bahrain’s position in the international community”.

Lamb has been particularly outspoken in the media about his views on the political unrest in Bahrain – without clarifying that his company has been contracted to do PR for the government. Lamb has followed Pienaar to C5 Capital.

Pienaar left G3 in 2014 – apparently to the relief of some former colleagues. “He has no training or proper experience as a spy or an investigator – and yet for decades he has managed to fool and convince even the most experienced spies, investigative journalists and detectives,” one of his former associates told Noseweek. “Someone should write a book about him.” 


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