Investigators have set their sights on a secret bank account that they say may have been used for fraudulent activities.
A mysterious bank account allegedly belonging to the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund has now become the focus of a high-level financial investigation by the Hawks, the Mail & Guardian learnt this week.
The discovery of the secret bank account by the police comes just three weeks after the Hawks – officially known as the directorate for priority crimes investigation – launched a massive financial probe into how former president Nelson Mandela's money was misappropriated.
The M&G reported two weeks ago ("Raid on Mandela charities blocked")that the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund and the Nelson Mandela Trust have received letters from the Hawks demanding the charities' financial records, including bank statements of family members, trustees and employees.
It has since emerged that the Hawks have now set their sights on the secret bank account that was opened at Nedbank five years ago by the children's fund.
Hawks sources told the M&G this week that they suspected that the bank account might have been used for fraudulent activities. It is still unclear at the moment who actually opened the bank account and for what purpose, according to the sources.
Sibongile Mkhabela, the chief executive of the fund, refused to answer M&G questions about the existence of a second bank account with Nedbank.
Mkhabela, through her spokesperson Oupa Ngwenya, said the only account the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund had opened with Nedbank was public knowledge and accounted for in the fund's annual report for the year 2012-13.
"On the probe to charities, please be informed that the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund has nothing more to add other than responses already given in the previous enquiry [by the M&G]," said Ngwenya.
However, the existence of a secret bank account was pointed out earlier this year by auditing firm PwC in a risk report when it audited the financial status of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.
"During the current financial year [covering 2012-13], a previously unidentified bank account was discovered," according to the report prepared for the fund. "It is unknown as to who opened this account and when [it was] opened … This poses the risk that there may be more bank accounts in the name of the Fund that no one is aware of."
Yet, the discovery of the bank account by PwC was not reported in the fund's annual report for the financial year 2012-13.
Approached for comment, PwC spokesperson Sanchia Temkin said: "We cannot answer the questions due to client confidentiality based on our profession's code of conduct."
Hawks spokesperson Captain Paul Ramaloko was only prepared to say that the police were following a number of leads in their investigation into allegations that an estimated R15-million has been misappropriated from Mandela's charities.
"All I am prepared to say is that we are conducting a broad investigation," he said.
"We don't want to comment [about the secret bank account] at this stage for fear of compromising the investigation.
"It is common knowledge that Mr Mandela is a public figure and well respected internationally so we will leave no stone unturned in this investigation."
Nedbank's spokesperson Maseda Ratshikuni declined to confirm or deny the existence of a secret bank account opened by the children's fund five years ago.
"We can confirm that the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund is a Nedbank account holder and a partner through the Nedbank Children's Affinities programme," said Ratshikuni. "According to our records, the fund complies with applicable banking regulations. We are bound to client confidentiality and the Protection of Personal Information Bill. Therefore, we can only disclose client information to the designated client and/or law enforcement officials ... As an authorised financial services provider, Nedbank Ltd subscribes to the banking code of conduct and has zero tolerance for noncompliance for all policies and procedures in line with regulatory and statutory requirements."
The broader financial investigation into the misappropriation of Mandela's funds is part of the criminal charges of fraud, forgery and uttering laid by the former president against his former lawyer and once-trusted friend Ismail Ayob, Ayob's late wife Zamila, and his partner Ross Calder.
The criminal probe into Mandela's missing millions is expected to reveal how Ayob's company Magnifique entered into a deal with the advertising company Concept (owned by Calder) to sell prints of Mandela's artwork, mainly in the United States, for about R50 000 each in a project called Touch Mandela.
Magnifique was paid R3-million for the rights to sell the works and R10-million as an advance on future profits.
Mandela is recuperating at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, after he was discharged from a Pretoria hospital four weeks ago.
The M&G left several messages for Ayob at his office in Houghton but he had not responded at the time of going to press.