Council accounts hacked

26 March 2013 - 04:13 By AMUKELANI CHAUKE and ZINHLE NHLANHLA
Computer. File photo.
Computer. File photo.

An alleged hacking syndicate that used sophisticated computer software to steal millions from an Mpumalanga municipal bank account has been bust by the Hawks and the National Intelligence Agency.

It is alleged that two men at a posh Sandton hotel were only a mouse click away from R39-million after hacking into an expenditure account belonging to the Govan Mbeki Municipality in Secunda, Mpumalanga. However, rather than leaving the hotel as rich men, they left in handcuffs.

Hawks and the National Intelligence Agency raided the men' s hotel room and took them into custody.

At around the same time in Secunda, detectives arrested two other men in connection with the same crime.

Four suspects - Charles Mabe, Bonga Sithole, Sikhakhane Sibeko and Sihle Mabuya - briefly appeared before the Secunda Magistrate's Court to face fraud charges.

Hawks spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloka said Mabuya, 28, who works as an IT technician at the municipality, was released on R15000 bail, while the other three men will remain in custody until Monday to apply for bail.

Mabuya was granted bail after he allegedly confessed to his role in the scheme. While he would not be used as a witness for the state, Ramoloka said, Mabuya's statement will lead to further arrests.

Mabuya apparently said he was asked to install a device on the municipal computer system that would record log-in details and monitor online financial transactions . The suspects, who all purportedly live in posh Johannesburg houses, allegedly made off with R2.6-million.

A senior bank official informed the municipality about the suspicious transaction, with the council asking the bank to freeze the account.

A case of fraud was then opened by Secunda's intelligence unit.

The National Intelligence Agency then red-flagged municipal coffers to monitor activities on the accounts.

When the two men logged on to the accounts from a laptop on Friday, detectives moved in.

Benzi Soko, a spokesman for the Govan Mbeki Municipality, said: "It is disappointing that [one of the accused] is a municipality employee, but we cannot comment further on what action we are going to take [as the case is still being investigated]."

X