15 February 2019

South Africa: Land Bank Fraudsters Handed Heavy Sentences

Former Land Bank chief executive officer Philemon Mohlahlane, 63, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for defrauding the entity of six million rand.

His co-accused, Member of Parliament Ruben Mohlaloga, 45, and attorney Dinga Rammy Nkhwashu, 41, were on Thursday also handed 20 and 24 year imprisonment sentences, respectively, by the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.

The sentencing was a culmination of what began with their arrests by the Hawks' Serious Corruption Investigative unit in October 2012.

"This followed relentless investigations that revealed that they had formed a common purpose to defraud the Agri-BEE Fund/Land Bank Government project of R6 million that was undeservedly paid into a trust account operated by Nkhwashu's firm on Mohlahlane's instruction," said Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi.

The BEE agriculture project, he said, was meant to benefit emerging farmers and assist previously disadvantaged farmers' women and youth in agriculture to acquire land and to establish farming enterprises.

"This was made possible after Mohlahlane instructed the fund manager to transfer the funds, after he made it seem like it was an urgent ministerial instruction for a ministerial project. No procedures were consequently followed. There was no proper application' no due diligence was done on the project and the matter was never served before the National Advisory Panel for approval," said Mulaudzi.

The funds were then subsequently transferred out of Nkhwashu's trust account in a large number of intricate transactions to the benefit of the convicts.

"The investigating team presented a watertight case in the subsequent trial which resulted in the trio being found guilty by the Pretoria Specialised Court in January 2018 on charges of money laundering and fraud.

"The team further worked closely with the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU), to ensure that assets acquired through the proceeds of crime valued at approximately R3.2 million were recovered. These included a Schuinshoek farm as well as a luxury BMW vehicle," he said.

The court has ordered Mohlahlane to serve an effective seven year jail term, while Mohlaloga is to serve 20 years. Dinga Rammy Nkhwashu is to serve an effective sentence of 24 years.

"An application for leave to appeal against the conviction was dismissed whilst an application for leave to appeal against the sentence was granted for all three accused who have all been granted bail ranging from R30 000 to R100 000 pending the appeal," Mulaudzi said.

Hawks Head, Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya welcomed the judgment and commended the investigation and prosecutorial teams for ensuring that justice is served.

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