More than R11.8-billion has been recovered in the past five years from the proceeds of corruption, money laundering, cyber and environmental crimes by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Big names have been targeted, such as the Bobroff father and son — who fled to Australia — the Trifecta group of companies and recently the former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, whose home was raided.
Though it may seem that the unit is battling to crack the Gupta money trail, there is a lot of money — and assets — being recovered from other perpetrators.
Last week, the Mail & Guardian reported that assets owned by the Gupta family were being sold by business rescue practitioners. The state was, however, not part of the creditors — giving the impression that the country might never see a cent from the monies looted from state coffers by the family, and its companies.
But other criminals have not got away as easily. In the past financial year alone, the forfeiture unit has recovered more than R2.8-billion in corruption-related crimes. This is the highest amount the unit has recovered in the past five years — in the 2017-18 financial year it recovered just R665 418.
Gumede’s case falls in this category. She faces charges regarding her alleged involvement in corruption relating to the awarding of a R208-million tender for Durban’s solid waste department, and her home was raided last month.
Homes of the former mayor’s co-accused in the case were included in the 10 properties raided and assets such as luxury cars and cash were seized to the value of about R51-million, according to the Sowetan.
The unit’s spokesperson, Bulelwa Makeke, told the M&G that another case of corruption saw the unit recovering R6.6-million in Nelson Mandela Bay. “In Port Elizabeth the court dismissed an interdict application by Andrea Wessels to stop the auction of property worth over R3.7-million, for which the AFU had attained a preservation order.”
Makeke said this case is part of the unit’s attempt to recover funds that were looted from the Integrated Public Transport System — the city’s rapid bus transport system. In court, the state said that the money bought the R3.7-million home, among other things.
The M&G Data Desk analysed five years’ worth of forfeiture unit seizure and recovery data, focusing on 10 specific crimes, including fraud, cash smuggling, human trafficking, counterfeit fraud, and drug-related offences.
The data shows that the unit has also made significant progress in recovering funds in economic crime cases — nearly R2-billion was recovered last year, in 129 cases. The previous year only R180-million was recovered.
Another case finalised recently is that of the Trifecta group of companies, which was handed government lease contracts by former ANC Northern Cape provincial chairman John Block.
The politician was accused of using his position to facilitate deals for the chief executive officer of Trifecta, Christo Scholtz. Both were sentenced to 15 years behind bars in 2016, after being found guilty of corruption and money laundering.The case to recover monies paid to the Trifecta group then went into overdrive.
The unit’s spokesperson, Makeke, said: “In September, Justice Tshiqi at the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit confiscation of R59.8-million of the Trifecta group of companies to the state.”
In 2016, the Bobroffs fled South Africa for Australia when the scandal broke that they — as personal injury lawyers — had allegedly fleeced clients who were claiming from the Road Accident Fund. The Bobroffs were accused of inflating their legal fees and, a day before they were meant to appear before the court on charges of money laundering and fraud, they fled the country.
But the arm of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is long — in August the unit obtained an order in the Pretoria high court against the bank accounts in Israel held in the names of Ronald and Darren Bobroff.
In the past five years, the AFU has recovered more R2.2-billion from fraud-related crimes with the previous financial year being it’s most successful, where R1.9-billion was recovered.
Meanwhile, in 2017, the NPA — in collaboration with the Hawks, the Financial Intelligence Centre, the South African Reserve Bank, and the South African Revenue Service — began working together to tackle illicit financial flows.
Makeke told the M&G that the NPA has to date finalised 45 cases through prosecution, and secured convictions in 43 cases.
In one of the cases, two men were sentenced to a fine of R100 000 or two years behind bars for trying to move money out of the country.
Makeke said: “The state alleged that the accused intended to take money in excess of R100 000 out of the country. They were found with $4 080 190 and R22 075 500 in their possession on their way to Dubai. The R78-million seized was declared forfeited to the state.”
In another case, an accused was travelling to Mauritius when law enforcement officials intercepted luggage containing undeclared cash. The accused had a bag full of money to the tune of nearly R7-million in dollars and rands. The forfeiture unit obtained a forfeiture order with regard to the seized money.
The unit is hoping to recover billions more in this financial year.
In response to parliamentary questions last month, Ronald Lamola, the minister of justice and constitutional development, said the unit recovered more than R115-million in crimes relating to the Prevention of Organised Crime Act in two months this year alone and was currently working on 319 cases, valued at R28.9-billion.