/ 7 May 2024

SIU recovers R53 million worth of stolen government land

Boitumelo Moiloa, Mangaung municipality’s debt collection officer, was suspended for allegedly forging customer services manager Salome Makhooa’s signature so Maine Management and Chartered Accountants Incorporated could be paid R4.2 million for work it did not do.

The Pretoria high court has granted the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU’s) application to recover R53 million worth of land that was sold to property company RIC Development by a land-theft syndicate.

The investigation focused on the fraud and corruption committed from January 2008 to February 2022, SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said.

“As part of the investigation, numerous affidavits were obtained by the SIU from the department of rural development and land reform and [the] deeds registry staff members, external witnesses and/or transferring attorneys,” he said.

The SIU said its investigation found that individuals and privately-owned entities defrauded the rural development and land reform department and the deeds registries in Vryburg, Johannesburg and Pretoria by transferring government-owned property to people and private entities for their personal benefit.

RIC Development bought more than 2 000 hectares of land in Zuurfontein, Gauteng, and developed it without knowing it had been stolen, Kganyago said

He added that it must be transferred to Gauteng’s infrastructure development department, the original title deed owner, and R12 million should be paid to the department.

The forfeiture order broke down the R53 million to R12 million held through a bank guarantee by the alleged fraudulent companies, while R41 million was the value of the intended development of low-income housing and a school in Zuurfontein, north of Johannesburg.

In February, the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) and the SIU were granted a preservation order, which will see the public works department take full control of the properties while the order is in place.

The order allowed the AFU to freeze an agricultural holding and a farm, which are linked to the fraudulent transfer of government-owned land to private entities. It also prohibits anyone outside of the public works department from dealing with the land in question.

A joint statement by the SIU and the NPA said a similar preservation order for other land had been granted by the Pretoria high court on 9 September 2022, with a value of about R144 million, taking the total value of frozen assets to about R197 million.