Six suspects appeared in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Pretoria on Monday after allegedly manipulating a bursary system at the University of South Africa (Unisa) by creating ghost students.
According to the Hawks, a Unisa payroll administrator, Thandie Esbie, created ghost students and defrauded the South African Agency for Science and Technology (SAAST), under the administration of the National Research Foundation of South Africa, to the tune of R1.7 million.
Hawks spokesperson Captain Ndivhuwo Mulamu said the syndicate has been operating with this modus operandi for the last two years.
Group executive of corporate relations at the NRF, Dr Beverley Damonse, said one of the accused had been an employee at the research foundation, and allegedly defrauded the foundation by creating ghost workers at the SAAST.
This was uncovered by the SAAST after a forensic audit and the matter was handed over the Hawks.
The accused then resigned.
Damonse said she did not know if the accused then started working for Unisa.
"On Friday last week the Hawks team paid a visit to the university's main campus in Pretoria and arrested Esbie whilst the other five syndicate members were picked up at their respective homes in and around Pretoria," said Mulamu.
"The six spent the weekend behind bars and on Monday during their court appearance, they were granted bail."
Esbie was granted R3 000 bail while Florence Skhosana, Thembi Ndlovu, Matilda Mmotlana, Joy Skhosana and Clifford Banda were granted R2 000 bail respectively.
Gauteng Hawks head, Major General Prince Mokotedi, commended the investigation team and declared that the Hawks will stand firm in fighting corporate corruption.
He said the public also have a responsibility to act against any corrupt activities, and urged people to report any unlawful conduct to law enforcement authorities.
The matter has been postponed to May 16 for further investigation.