Pretoria – President Cyril Ramaphosa promised last week that all Covid-19 funds spent fraudulently would be recovered.
In this regard, the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, has frozen the bank account of a KwaZulu-Natal businessman who allegedly stole or defrauded nearly R700 000 from the UIF.
The court granted the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) a preservation order to freeze a bank account linked to Thokozani Mchunu.
This followed suspicions that he had fraudulently received funds from the UIF.
NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said R692 185.55 was fraudulently, or mistakenly, paid into a bank account in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, which is registered in Mchunu’s name.
According to him, Durban company National Adhesive Distributors CC successfully applied to the Covid-19 relief fund on April 15 for R692 185.55. This was on behalf of its employees and their dependants. These funds were to be paid to more than 150 employees and their dependants.
The UIF was alerted on June 12 by the company that the funds had not reflected in its bank account.
It was discovered that the funds went into Mchunu’s account. He is said to be a private individual who is neither employed by the UIF nor the National Adhesive Distributors CC.
Following this discovery, the matter was reported to the police, who acted swiftly and alerted the Financial Intelligence Centre. They intervened promptly in terms of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act and froze the relevant accounts, Ngwema said.
After receiving the funds, Mchunu allegedly transferred portions of the money into other bank accounts held by himself, various stokvel accounts, and numerous bank accounts of other individuals.
The transfer of the funds into the accounts was done in an attempt to disguise the origin of the funds, it is claimed.
“The SAPS is continuing with its investigations into allegations of fraud, and or theft as well as money laundering. The Assets Forfeiture Unit applied for the preservation order to permanently forfeit the money to the state,” said Ngwema.
The operation is a direct product of the “Fusion Centre” that was established, among other things, as an urgent intervention to address unlawful activities related to Covid-19 relief funds.
The court also recently sent out a strong message that fraud pertaining to these funds would not be tolerated when it froze millions in another account into which UIF funds were allegedly fraudulently paid.
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