Wednesday, November 14, 2018
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Hawks turn up the heat on high profile cases

The Hawks are progressing with priority cases.Hawks Head Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya says the elite crime-fighting agency is implementing a turnaround strategy in investigating high profile cases, including State capture probes.

Lebeya on Tuesday briefed Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police in Cape Town on investigations into the Estina, Steinhoff and VBS Mutual Bank cases.

“We are strengthening our working relations with stakeholders in a multi-disciplinary approach… We are intensifying the awareness within government institutions and other institutions that play a role in reporting crime,” he said.

Lebeya said the Hawks are doing all they can to guarantee the protection of whistle-blowers within government institutions to encourage their willingness to report corruption.

A breakdown of cases

Two cases of corruption, fraud and money laundering involving R2.4 billion were opened in Sandton. Three natural persons and companies have been identified so far. This relates mainly to Eskom’s pre-payment of R659 million to Tegeta for the purchasing of Optimum Coal Holdings – facilitated via the Bank of Baroda.

Detectives are looking into another case relating to the misuse of the Rehabilitation Trust Fund of the Koornfontein Fund, amounting to R280 million, that was transferred upon an instruction to a Bank of Baroda account. An additional Rehabilitation Trust Fund amount of R1.4 billion was also transferred into a Bank of Baroda account.

In this case, Lebeya said 767 bank accounts’ information has been received as a result of a section 205 subpoenas. There are 3 800 sources of information under assessment.

Lebeya said PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is busy with analysis of the documents received. Over 1 800 pages of documents have been received from Eskom with the relevant witness statements. Over 40 witnesses for the initial phase have been identified and must be interviewed.

Vrede Dairy Project-Estina

In the Vrede Dairy Project-Estina matter involving R284 million, Lebeya said seven individuals – Peter Thabethe, Seipati Dhlamini, Takisi Masiteng, Kamal Vasram, Ashu Chalwa, Nazim Hower and Varun Gupta – were implicated accused persons facing charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering charges.

Estina had entered into an agreement with the Free State Department of Agriculture to establish, implement and manage dairy project Vrede to benefit previously disadvantaged persons to uplift local residents. While Estina was, according to the agreement, supposed to provide a capital injection of R228 million, the amount was transferred to the Bank of Baroda before being channelled to Oakbay Investments and other companies and individuals.

Lebeya said to date, 302 bank account reports have been received as a result of subpoenas and 139 witness statements have been obtained. Two search and seizure operations have been conducted and the services of an auditing firm have been procured to analyse the flow of funds.

The seven accused persons are out on bail ranging from R10 000 to R200 000 each and they are due to appear in court on Friday, 17 August 2018.

VBS Mutual Bank

On the R311 million case involving VBS Mutual Bank and Vhembe District Municipality -- where monies were invested with VBS by 10 Limpopo municipalities, in contravention of a Treasury instruction and the Municipal Finance Management Act -- Lebeya said reports by the SA Reserve Bank and the provincial Treasury have been received by the Hawks.

He said a summary of alleged persons and companies involved have been compiled from reports and the case docket. A request for information was sent from the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) in respect of company names that have been identified. Bank account processes are still under consideration by the relevant institutions.

Steinhoff case

On the Steinhoff case, which was categorised under “serious commercial crimes”, Lebeya said the Hawks have received three dockets and a report in terms of Section 34 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act of 2004.

Steinhoff is facing allegations that during the 2014/15 financial year, it submitted false, misleading or deceptive financial statements to attract investors, in contravention of Section 81 of the Financial Markets Act.

Lebeya said the matter -- which led to share prices plummeting when the scandal broke and in the process placing investments at risk -- is still under investigation.

The National Prosecuting Authority, Department of Trade and Industry, Financial Sector Conduct Authority, the Independent Regulatory Board of Auditors and the JSE are part of the multi-disciplinary team that also includes Interpol to assist the Hawks.

Lebeya said, meanwhile, with regards to the attempted attack at Taqwa Mosque in De Deur on 31 July, a 36-year-old male suspect has been arrested. He appeared in court on 2 August.