/ 28 December 2013

Zuma’s dodgy Nkandla builder pays fine following Seychelles arrest

Thande Nene was arrested on allegations of fraud in the Seychelles just before Christmas.
Thande Nene was arrested on allegations of fraud in the Seychelles just before Christmas.

President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead builder, Thandeka Nene, who was bust on allegations of fraud in the Seychelles just before Christmas, is reportedly back in South Africa as a free woman.

Her Durban-­based lawyer, Phyllis Jailall, confirmed that Nene paid a fine of 50 000 rupees (about R43 464) after her last court appearance in the Seychelles last Friday.

She arrived back in South Africa on Monday in time to spend the festive season with her family, said the Weekend Witness on Saturday.

Nene’s company Bonelena Construction obtained contracts valued at up to R78,2-million for government funded upgrades to Zuma’s Nkandla residence.  However, the company faced liquidation for owing R175,000 for vehicle rentals.

A month later, her company was bailed out by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) with a R30-million loan.

Jailall, of Jailall, Yusuph and Associates, said the Seychelles fine was not an admission of guilt, but was paid for being in possession of a “false” document — a bank draft cheque. The lawyer said so far the document had not been proven to be false.

Jailall said her client was not directly linked to the case, but her potential business associates were.

Arrested for fraud

The Mail & Guardian had reported earlier this month that Nene, who built her empire on government construction tenders, was arrested with two others — one said to be a South African and the other from Sierra Leone.

The three were charged for attempted bank fraud.

They had allegedly approached BMI Bank on the islands to open new accounts that would be funded by what police in the Seychelles said was €500-million in available funds held by HSBC Bank.

Arrests followed soon after, with a specialised fraud unit of the islands' police force also seizing "a variety of documents as well as laptops and other IT equipment" for forensic investigation.

According to a source with knowledge of the attempted transaction, it was a "reasonably crude attempt" at a common type of fraud, relying on a forged banker's draft. These drafts are routinely sent to the issuing bank for certification and, at an institution such as HSBC, the verification is fast.

What the seized documents revealed and what Nene and her co-accused were intending are not clear. Government authorities in the Seychelles would not comment on the matter and the country's police force said it would not disclose anything but the arrest report, which has few details. They would not even confirm the identities of those arrested.

Nene not speaking to the media

Jailall told Weekend Witness that Nene’s co­-accused had paid the same fines. She refused to divulge their names as they were not her clients.

She added that Nene was happy to be home and that she was not ready to speak to the media.