What the 'asbestos seven' stand to lose if the Asset Forfeiture Unit has its way

02 October 2020 - 21:01
By naledi shange AND Naledi Shange
The seven implicated in the Free State asbestos case appeared in the Free State High Court on Friday.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi The seven implicated in the Free State asbestos case appeared in the Free State High Court on Friday.

In a bid to recoup the R300m state funds allegedly lost to corruption and fraud in the Free State asbestos saga, the NPA's Asset Forfeiture Unit on Friday said it was going after the trust and banking accounts, properties, pension funds and houses belonging to the seven accused in the matter.

Shortly after the court appearance of the seven suspects in the Free State High Court, the unit,  along with a curator, began doing inspection on some of the properties belonging to the accused.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Sipho Ngwema told TimesLIVE that though the group is alleged to have taken R255m, the state was aiming at getting about R300m back.

“The order is worth R300m. It means that they have to take household goods, cars and any other realisable property that is going to assist in making sure that we recover whatever has been lost to the state.

“This amount also includes the interest that would have been incurred had the money remained with the state,” Ngwema said.

He explained that the properties of the accused would be kept in the possession of the state until the court processes were concluded. Depending on the outcome of the court proceedings, the state would apply for a permanent order for the properties to be sold so that the state could realise the lost millions.

PODCAST | Zondo Commission begins to bear fruit as asbestos audit arrests wow SA

Subscribe: iono.fm | Spotify | Apple Podcast | Pocket Casts | Player.fm

The Hawks arrested the suspects earlier this week, linking them to the project which dates back to 2014. The contract had been awarded to Blackhead Consulting and Diamond Hill Trading, which were supposed to assess houses with asbestos roofing in the Free State.

These companies, including 605 Consulting Solutions, MasterTrade 232 and ORI Group, have also been charged in the matter.

Here are some of the assets the accused and the businesses stand to lose should the state be successful in proving its case:  

— Former human settlements head of department Nthimotse Mokhesi stands to lose at least two Bloemfontein properties listed in his name, the contents of his bank account, his government pension fund, a family trust and at least four cars.

— John Matlakala who is the director of supply chain management at the provincial human settlements department could lose three vehicles, a property listed under his family trust and his government pension fund.

— Businessman Edwin Sodi stands to lose the most. Listed under his name is a farm and at least 11 properties. Sodi has numerous luxury vehicles listed under his name including a Porsche Cayenne, Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Mercedes-Benz. Property registered under one of his companies, Blackhead Consulting, are also in the queue to be seized. These include at least two housing units and 25 vehicles — including a Bentley, Ferrari and Porsche and, on the less extravagant side, a 2004 Toyota Tazz. The company has equity in the range of R71m.

— Sello Radebe, who is also a businessman, has a property listed under his name in Phuthaditjhaba and a 2005 Bentley which the AFU is looking to seize.  

— Director of ORI Group Abel Kgotso Manyeki also stands to have his assets attached. These include his personal assets as well as those belonging to his company. ORI is also charged in the matter. The assets included under Manyeki’s name include a property in Pretoria and a 2007 Ford Fiesta.

— In the case of former human settlements minister Thabane Zulu, the AFU has its eyes set on his property in Pretoria, two BMW vehicles, a Land and Range Rover and a 1989 Honda Ballade.

— Ousted Mangaung mayor Sarah ‘Olly’ Mlamleli stands to lose five properties, one of which she has a 50% stake in. She also has two vehicles, namely an Audi Q7 and Hilux bakkie, listed under her name.

The accused face about 60 charges including corruption, fraud, money laundering, contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (Precca) and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

The accused made a brief appearance in court on Friday and were released on bail, ranging from R50,000 to R500,000.

Their case returns to court on November 11.

According to the Ngwema, three other people of interest will most probably have been arrested and charged by then and should join these accused in the dock in their next appearance.