Crooked accountant sentenced to 135 years for R11 million Covid-19 relief fund fraud

Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya, the National Head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI). Picture: Jacques Naude / Independent Newspapers

Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya, the National Head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI). Picture: Jacques Naude / Independent Newspapers

Published Dec 6, 2023


A crooked accountant who defrauded the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) during the Covid-19 pandemic for R11 million was sentenced to 135 years imprisonment.

The Durban-based bookkeeper, Lindelani Bert Gumede was one of 156 people investigated by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) Fusion Centre - a team comprising specialist investigators from multiple law-enforcement agencies and the banks - that probed the misappropriation of Covid-19 funds.

Gumede was arrested and convicted in THe Johannesburg Specialised Commercial Crimes Court for fraud, theft and money laundering after claiming relief funds on behalf of a number of companies without their knowledge.

Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya, the National Head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), highlighted Gumede’s cases during a briefing on Tuesday where he revealed the extensive achievements of the Fusion Centre in its crusade against corruption and financial crime in South Africa.

He said that investigators who probed Gumede, uncovered a network of 17 persons, 26 entities, 53 banking accounts, and 983 transactions involved in the flow of the financial proceeds from the accountant.

The funds were used to purchase immoveable and moveable assets such as houses and a car. Preservation orders were effected against:

Two accounts to the value R3,065,114.08.

Four immoveable properties valued R2,662,986.60.

One vehicle that was bought for R665,000.

The Fusion Centre, an initiative born in May 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic, was established by the Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT).

Initially focused on combating the misappropriation of Covid-19 relief funds, its mandate has, as of March 2023, expanded to include a broader spectrum of financial crimes, including organised crime, money laundering, and terrorist financing.

Underlining the Centre's collaborative ethos, Lebeya highlighted its integration of various agencies, including the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA); NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU); Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC); Special Investigating Unit (SIU), South African Revenue Service (Sars), Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), South African Police Service (SAPS) Detectives and Crime Intelligence, the National Intelligence Coordinating Committee (NICOC), National Treasury and Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA), the State Security Agency (SSA).

This unified front has led to:

– The investigation of 556 cases involving fraud, maladministration, tax evasion, and corruption with 168 accused individuals.

– Convictions of 51 individuals and 43 entities for diverse crimes ranging from corruption to money laundering.

– The progression of 48 cases currently in court.

Other notable cases included:

– A separate case involved an accountant defrauding the TERS scheme of R884,308.06, resulting in a six-year imprisonment sentence for the perpetrator, Pretoria chartered accountant, Mark Vorster.

– In a staggering claim of R220 million from the TERS scheme, the Eastern Cape Taxi Association was found to have used 66 accounts fraudulently. Preservation orders of R26.9 million were secured against the association. Investigations are continuing.

Lebeya said the Fusion Centre's operations have extended into the public sector, leading to:

– Disciplinary actions against 97 officials for maladministration, fraud, and corruption.

– The dismissal of 11 public officials, with several others suspended or resigned.

– Referrals to various regulatory bodies, including the Competition Commission and SAHPRA.

Emphasising the importance of partnerships, particularly with the business sector, Lebeya called for enhanced collaboration to improve forensic investigation skills.

He also underlined the Centre's contribution to the Financial Action Task Force action plan, focusing on strengthening anti-money laundering systems in South Africa.

“We are calling upon the business sector, specifically, to partner and collaborate with the Fusion Centre and support the enhancement of forensic investigation skills and other critical skills which will lead to higher rates of prosecution for commercial corruption crimes. The Fusion Centre contributes towards the implementation of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) action plan in respect of South Africa in addressing deficiencies in the anti-money laundering system … We urge all citizens to be anti-corruption champions and support the work of the Fusion Centre by reporting all forms of fraud and corruption, without fear or favour,” he said.

Incidences of fraud and corruption can be reported anonymously by calling the toll-free National Anti-Corruption Hotline: 0800 701 701 or sending an email to: [email protected].

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