Meet Gupta man Mark Pamensky: ‘It’s your best man sleeping with your wife’

EDINBURGH — South African chartered accountant Mark Pamensky has had the stench of state capture swirling around him for some time. His name appears periodically in connection with scandals linked to financial irregularity at state entities. Mark Pamensky is a Gupta right-hand man, yet this week he took the unusual move of contradicting his benefactor Atul Gupta in public. Atul Gupta has denied that the #GuptaLeaks are real, and has hinted of a fake email conspiracy. But his friend Mark Pamensky admitted this week that they are genuine. Mark Pamensky reckons emails leaked about him were taken out of context. Nevertheless, we now have additional confirmation from yet another individual in the state capture network that the #GuptaLeaks are authentic – and that they therefore provide evidence of the theft of state funds to feather the nests of the captured and corrupt. Investigators can now go to Mark Pamensky as they build a case against various government ministers and bosses of state-owned enterprises. He doesn’t have a loyal bone in his body, it seems, so it is quite possible he will turn state witness to save himself. Then again, some might prefer Mark Pamensky to stand trial for his own crimes against South Africa. — Jackie Cameron.

By Thulasizwe Sithole

Who is Mark Pamensky? Some snapshots about a man who puts money before friends. 

Flashback: Mark Pamensky suckles deep in Gupta bosom

In March 2016, BizNews editor-in-chief Alec Hogg reported on the make-up of the board of South Africa’s deeply troubled electricity provider Eskom.

At the time, of the 13 people charged with fixing Eskom, only one member of the board – Dr Pat Naidoo – was an electrical engineer.

An Eskom sign stands outside the company’s headquarters at Megawatt Park in Sandton, near Johannesburg, South Africa. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

“Even more bizarre, though, is the story behind the only white South African director, 42-year-old chartered accountant Mark Pamensky. With three other CAs on Eskom’s board, and a huge pool of experienced engineers and directors to choose from, his appointment makes no sense.”

That is, until you join the dots with the Gupta-Zuma plan to capture state funds through business deals. That strategy has generated an estimated R100bn for the Gupta family.

As Alec Hogg noted, at the same time that Pamensky was improbably on the Eskom board, he was also a director of the Gupta mothership company Oakbay.

The role of Mark Pamensky at Oakbay appeared odd from the outside. “With a huge pool of mining professionals to choose from, why would a resources business add another bean counter with no rock digging experience?”

But that is until it becomes clear that Oakbay had its sights set on siphoning funds out of Eskom through its expanded coal operations. 

Blue Label’s co-CEO Brett Levy told Alec Hogg that Mark Pamensky’s resignation took him by surprise.

“It came out of the blue. It was like my wife of 20 years saying she was leaving me. Pamensky was 100% involved in the professional and private lives of me and my brother (co-CEO Mark Levy). I was the best man at his wedding two years ago; he was a trustee of our private trusts; we shared everything together.” – Brett Levy, Blue Label CEO

Pamensky’s appointment to the Eskom directorate came soon after the May 2014 installation of new Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown.

Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown

At the time, Levy said, the Blue Label team were supportive as they regarded it as recognition for the company. He admitted that with hindsight he should have reflected on why Pamensky was selected ahead of thousands of more suitable candidates.

The Eskom process was very different to Pamensky’s appointment to the Gupta’s Oakbay board: “We only found out about it after the fact, about four months later. I was totally against this appointment and recommended he withdraw. I warned him his commitment to Oakbay could not take up any Blue Label time. Quite honestly I just didn’t want to know anything about his involvement with the Guptas.”

Mark Pamensky tried to hide his close associations with the Gupta family.

When Pamensky announced he was leaving Blue Label after almost two decades, he said it was to start his own business in property development.

“Levy says only later did the truth emerge that Pamensky had become a fully fledged business partner of the Gupta family.  After being told of the misrepresentation of his former COO’s bios on the Eskom and Oakbay websites, Levy sent an email demanding it be corrected: ‘We really don’t want Blue Label to be dragged into any association with the Guptas.’

If the ANC is serious about investigating “State Capture”, there are few better places to start than understanding why such radical changes were made to the Eskom directorate. In the context of Guptagate and the Optimum Coal scandal, calling in Pamensky would be instructive, said Alec Hogg.

News24: Mark Pamensky fawns at the feet of Atul Gupta

In June, News24 highlighted the handholding between Atul Gupta and Mark Pamensky. It urged its readers to “consider this gem from Mark Pamensky, a member of the Guptarised Eskom board who, at the time he served on it, also sat on the board of the Guptas’ mining firm Oakbay Resources and Exploration.

“In an email to Atul Gupta in October 2015, he wrote: “Congratulations (Mazeltov) on a brilliant and well thought out, planned and strategised acquisition of the Optimum Group of companies.

“Well done and I’m proud of you all… Let me know when you ready to discuss the operational implementation. I’m truly proud to be part of this group. Enjoy the well deserved holiday (sic).”

Rand Daily Mail: Mark Pamensky offered to go to ends of earth for Atul Gupta

In July, the Rand Daily Mail reported on Mark Pamensky’s business conflicts of interest.

“A  former board member at Eskom and Gupta-owned Oakbay, advised his Gupta colleagues to negotiate an effective discount of almost R2-billion when they bought mining giant Glencore’s Optimum Coal in 2015,” says the Rand Daily Mail.

“Pamensky, who recently resigned from both Eskom and Oakbay, was intimately involved in brokering the controversial Optimum deal and advised the Guptas to ensure that they did not pay the R2.1-billion fine which had been imposed by Eskom on Glencore.

File Photo: Creditors of Glencore’s Optimum Coal mine approved a plan to sell it to a company controlled by South African President Jacob Zuma’s son and the Gupta family, according to an administrator of the business-rescue team. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

“The fine – levied over a contractual dispute over a coal supply agreement – broke the back of Optimum and forced owners Glencore into a sale, ultimately secured by the Gupta-owned Tegeta.”

Although Pamensky did not sit on Eskom’s board tender committee, leaked e-mail correspondence shows he was involved on the side of Tegeta in advising the Guptas against paying the fine, says the media outlet.

“Payment of the fine would have benefited Eskom, whom he also represented at the time. The fine was subsequently reduced to R255.4-million once the Guptas took over the mine, with generous terms for paying it off.

And, in damning evidence that Mark Pamensky would do anything to help Atul Gupta secure a good money deal at the expense of South African taxpayers, here’s a leaked email from Pamensky to Gupta.

“As I’m at the tail-end of the main acquisition of Optimal (Optimum) Coal, please ensure that a condition precedent is that the R2bn claim from Eskom is [that it is] withdrawn or it becomes the seller’s problem. I’m happy to get involved to assist with this acquisition and monthly monitoring/analysing of all investments from today. I can meet anyone you require. If you need me in India or Dubai to discuss, I’ll meet you there,” said Pamensky in an e-mail to Atul Gupta in November 2015. The deal was closed a month later.

Pamensky denied to The Times any wrongdoing but didn’t explain why he had advised the Guptas to ensure they did not pay the fine.

Mark Pamensky: Laughing stock of the SA Jewish community

Mark Pamensky’s name is synonymous with corruption and state capture in the Jewish community. In a fun story aimed at helping its readers celebrate Chag Purim Sameyach in 2016, the South African Jewish Report said, with tongue in cheek:

“The Guptas and the Jewish community have always had close ties. When Mark Pamensky went to go and work for the Guptas we knew that a deal was close, and now with the protection of the Guptas, we know that we will have the full support of the government.

“Already the Guptas have secured the publication of government tenders in the SA Jewish Report which will generate an additional R10 million per month in revenue.”

Blue Label Telecoms: Mark Pamensky profile

Chief operating officer 

BCom (Wits), BCompt (Hons) (Unisa), CA(SA) 

Born: 1972

Mark completed his articles with PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc. before moving to the corporate finance department of Mercantile Bank. In 1999 he joined the boutique corporate advisory firm, Nucleus Corporate Finance, before joining Blue Label in 2001. Mark has played an integral role in the strategic and operational management of the group and much of its expanding telecommunications footprint can be attributed to his leadership. Mark is a member of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) and the Young Presidents Organisation (YPO).

Mark Pamensky when he’s at home

Mark Pamensky keeps a relatively low public profile. But his Facebook page paints a story of a man who loves the good life, travelling extensively to Israel, Europe and elsewhere and frequently photographed surrounded by yachts and the other trappings of wealth. He is very proud of his young wife and likes to kiss her in public.

Mark Pamensky
Mark and Zara Pamensky – living the good life on South African taxpayers’ backs.
Mark Pamensky
It’s a dog’s life: Mark Pamensky presents his soft side.
Mark Pamensky
Life of luxury. No expenses spared for Mark Pamensky and his young family.
Mark Pamensky
The thinker: Mark Pamensky plotted and planned with Atul Gupta in business dealings.
Mark Pamensky
Gotcha! Mark Pamensky in a cheeky pose.
Mark Pamensky
Cocktails at sunset: A relaxed and confident Mark Pamensky.
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