Asset Forfeiture Unit granted R249m restraint order in Free State corruption case

Asset Forfeiture Unit granted R249m restraint order in Free State corruption case
The Free State high court has granted a restraint order of R249m to the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in Bloemfontein related to the Estina dairy corruption case.

The order was granted against businesswoman Malikomo Lenah Mohapi, 55, her business Superior Quality Trading and Seipati Sylvia Dhlamini, 49, former CFO of the Free State department of agriculture and rural development.

A joint investigation by the Hawks, overseen by prosecutors from the specialised commercial crime component and of the provincial office of the director of public prosecutions, saw Mohapi and Dhlamini arrested in July 2020. They subsequently appeared in court.

They were joined in court in September by the head of department Mbana Thabethe, 54, as well as Lerato Mngomezulu, 39, Disebo Masiteng, 59, Mokemane Ndumo, 52, and Mahlomola Mofokeng, 55 — all members of the department’s bid adjudication committee.

“They collectively face 54 counts of forgery, uttering, fraud, corruption and money laundering and are all out on R10,000 bail,” said NPA spokesperson Sipho Mngwema. 

The sum of money involved is R249m.

The matter was discovered during a financial flow analysis exercise of Estina's bank accounts indicating irregularities and disguised payments to one of the officials. 

“It is alleged that the government officials gave a number of contracts to a company called Superior Quality Trading, which also trade as Rekgonne Community Projects, even though this company did not attend any of the department’s compulsory briefing sessions. 

“The company also had a certificate of attendance even though it was not present at the compulsory briefing where these certificates were issued. Between 2012 and 2016, the department is said to have paid more than R244m to the company,” Mngwema said. 

It is further alleged that the director of Superior Quality Trading, Mohapi, paid huge sums of money into the account of Dlamini. The payments were allegedly disguised as “Refund Telkomsa and Medical services”.

Investigations by the AFU indicated that the accused and company owned numerous properties, vehicles and bank accounts.