Water project trial targets Italian giant

Carmel Rickard, Business Day
September 4, 2006

Impregilo, the last remaining company to be charged in the landmark Lesotho corruption trials and one of the world’s largest construction companies, was charged on Sept. 4 with five counts of bribery involving millions of rands in connection with the Lesotho  Highlands Water Project.

According to the charge sheet, in October 1990 an employee of the old Impregilo (before it merged with a company also named Impregilo and Cogefar-Impresit Costruzioni Generali in 1994), who stayed on after the merger to work for the new company, made a “consultancy agreement” with Jacobus du Plooy, a South African listed as a witness for the prosecution.

The prosecution claims this agreement was a bribery arrangement and argues that the Lesotho project’s former chief executive, Masupha Sole, had already met the managing director of the old Impregilo in London, together with Du Plooy, acting as the go-between. Sole was to ensure that contracts were awarded to the company and would be handsomely rewarded in return.

The prosecution says that, as a result of this “agreement,” Impregilo paid a $1 million  bribe shared by Du Plooy and Sole. The money was paid into Du Plooy’s Swiss bank account and half was then paid to Sole.

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