A man who opened a bank account for a friend to enable a R4.2-million property-sale email fraud received just R150 for facilitating the scam.
Mlamuli Khumalo, who pleaded guilty to money laundering and contravening the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, said he “knew that there was something wrong with his [friend’s] proposal but was enticed by the offer of a reward since I was unemployed”.
He was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in the Johannesburg specialised commercial crimes court, sitting in Palm Ridge, Ekurhuleni, for helping Samson Olatunji Abdul, a Nigerian national, who the state alleges is the mastermind of the scheme that targets property and law firms.
The scam entailed using spyware and viruses to allegedly clone email addresses in order to dupe unsuspecting property traders into making deposits into fraudulently opened bank accounts.
Abdul, together with Siphosihle Sithole, is also facing fraud charges in another R7.8-million alleged scam in May 2019 for allegedly cloning the email address of conveyancing law firm DM5 during a property sale it was handling on behalf of Amohelang Holdings based in Polokwane.
Last Month, Khumalo pleaded guilty to defrauding Yaron Waks Attorneys in June 2019. Yaron Waks was handling the sale of Lesley Warther’s Johannesburg home.
Warther was meant to receive R4.2-million from the sale, but the money was deposited into Khumalo’s Nedbank account.
According to the charge sheet, which was presented by state advocate Frans Mhlongo, Yaron Waks received an email purportedly from Warther, who supposedly directed the law firm to deposit R4.2-million into an Investec Bank account. The state claimed that the money was deposited into Khumalo’s Nedbank account instead.
“It is alleged that Mr Mlamuli Khumalo provided his automated bankcard(s) to Mr Samoson Olatunji Abdul and/or persons unknown to the state to effect transactions.
“It is further alleged that the accused committed the offences . . . [in] furtherance of a common purpose with Mr. Samson Olatunji Abdul and/or persons unknown to the state,” reads the charge sheet.
In his plea agreement, Khumalo, 31, said he got involved in the scheme after he bumped into an old high school friend in their hometown of Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal. Khumalo said his friend told him about a business proposition that required him to open a new bank account.
“He [the friend] informed me that he has a problem with his bank account and he is expecting some payments from a certain drug lord from Johannesburg. He suggested that I should open one [an account]. I agreed and he gave me a lift to the bank as well as R50 for a new account.
“I then gave him my bank account information after successfully opening one [using] the cellphone number he supplied to me,” Khumalo said.
Khumalo added that his friend told him that there would be “a reward” for opening up this account.
“I knew that there was something wrong with his proposal but was enticed by the offer of a reward since I was unemployed [and] had [no] other means of income.
“I admit that the amounts mentioned in the charge sheet [R4.2-million] were received in my account as explained to me by my legal representative and the investigating officer and were withdrawn, transferred or used by [my friend] and/or his companion. He [the friend] paid me R150 for having used my card and/or bank account to receive the said money,” Khumalo said.
Abdul will return to court later this month for the 2019 R7.8-million matter and the R4.2-million case. The state had separated the cases because Khumalo indicated he would plead guilty in the R4.2-million matter.
A source in the National Prosecuting Authority said Khumalo would not appear as a state witness in the case against Abdul.
During his bail application in November 2019, it emerged that Abdul had lived large, buying himself expensive Tag Heuer watches, luxury Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana clothing, as well truckloads of alcohol.
Investigating officer Captain William Mopedi, testifying at the bail application, said: “What shocked me was that Abdul bought R1.2m worth of liquor – mostly expensive whiskies and champagnes,” adding that the police had videos and pictures showing Abdul making the transactions.
Mopedi said Abdul was linked to an upmarket nightclub in Sandton, which he allegedly supplied with alcohol. Abdul was denied bail and remains in custody.
In another email scam case, the Mail & Guardian reported last month that Bukelwa Kwinana disappeared during a court appearance in which her lawyer, Bulelani Mbeleni, told magistrate Phillip Venter that his client was prepared to plead guilty on all charges. A warrant was issued for her arrest.
Kwinana, Robert Asamoah and Thembani Maswanganyi face a combined 16 counts of fraud, forgery, uttering and contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act and are expected back in court later this month.
They are accused of defrauding R5.5-million from Judith Hawarden, who was involved in a property transaction that was facilitated by Pam Golding Properties and law firm ENSafrica. Hawarden was buying a house in Forest Town, Johannesburg, and ENSafrica were the conveyancing attorneys assisting the transaction.