By Bongani Tshabalala
BLOEMFONTEIN-Free State High Court Judge MA Mathebula, on Wednesday granted a restraint order of R249-million to the Asset Forfeiture Unit of National Prosecuting Authority in Bloemfontein against Lenah Mohapi (55), a director of Superior Quality Trading, and Seipati Sylvia Dhlamini (49), the former chief financial officer of Free State department of agriculture and rural development.
The order was made during pre-trial.
Their arrests are linked to the discovery made during investigation into Estina’s financial flow analysis exercise of the bank accounts, that there were irregularities and disguised payments to one of the officials.
The state is expected to call up about 27 state witnesses to take to the stand during the course of the trial. The National Prosecution Authority’s (NPA) team will be led by Advocate Mvuseni Ponye. Judge Craig Musi is set to preside over the matter.
The spokesperson of National Prosecuting Authority, Sipho Ngwema, says it is alleged that government officials gave a number of contracts to a company called Superior Quality Trading, which also trades as Rekgonne Community projects.
Even though this company did not attend any of the department’s compulsory briefing sessions where certificates are issued, it had a certificate which is suspected to have been acquired fraudulently.
“The company also had a certificate of attendance even though it was not present at the compulsory briefing where these certificates were issued. It further alleged that the director of Superior Quality Trading, Mohapi, paid huge sums of money into the account of Dlamini, who was the CFO at the time.
“Between 2012 and 2016, the department is said to have paid more than R244m to the company.”
In a joint investigation by the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (the Hawks), overseen by prosecutors from the specialised commercial crime component (SCCU) and office of director of Public Prosecution in Free State, Mohapi and Dlamini were arrested and together with Superior Quality Trading appeared in court in July 2020.
During their court appearance in September, they were joined by HOD Mbana Thabethe (54), and members of the agriculture department’s Bid Adjucation Committee, namely Lerato Mngomezulu (39), Disebo Masiteng(59),Mokemane Ndomu (52) and Mahlomola Mofokeng (55). They collectively face 54 counts of forgery, fraud, uttering, corruption and money laundering and all are out on bail of R10 000.
The suspects are linked to the investigations of the Estina case where huge amount of money was paid to a certain account.
According to a police statement, large amounts of money have allegedly been deposited into a bank account belonging to the former Chief Financial Officer for the Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.