By Bongani Tshabalala
LADYBRAND-The Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) has obtained a preservation order to secure over R900 000 which was fraudulently transferred into a bank account after an email containing payment instructions was intercepted by criminals.
Judge Soma Naidoo granted the order on Thursday in terms of Section 38 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) to preserve R901 852.92 which is part of the R1.5 million paid by Mantsopa Local Municipality into a business account owned by a certain Precious Thulisile Mabuza.
According to the AFU which is part of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the Ladybrand based municipality appointed West Rand Consulting to compile its annual financial statements and asset register report for the 2019/2020 financial year.
The contract was granted in April last year and the company was represented by Isaac Strauss.
Upon completion of the work, Strauss submitted an invoice to the municipality via electronic mail in December 2020.
The invoice was handled by Lawrence Seleke who was the finance officer for the municipality.
On December 24, Seleke informed Strauss that he would receive the payment later that day.
“Strauss was supposed to be paid R1.5 million by the municipality,” said NPA regional spokesperson Phaladi Shuping in a statement.
“On 28 December Strauss called Seleke as he had not yet received his payment.
“Seleke went and checked whether or not payment had not been effected and he discovered that his email was hacked and the bank account details on the invoice he received were fraudulent.”
The money was instead paid into the account of Mabuza who is the director of Focus Sister (Pty) Ltd.
Mabuza was however not entitled to receive that money.
The Financial Intelligence Centre immediately froze the account but Mabuza had already spent R598 147.09.
Advocate Eugene Ontong from the AFU then applied for the preservation of R901 852.92 that was in Mabuza’s account as the money was regarded as proceeds of unlawful activities.
No one has been arrested but the criminal investigation is underway.