Fake order for booze exposes tender scam
GREED has led to the arrest of fake tender fraudsters linked to a scam in which small business owners have been fleeced of more than R5-million since 2010.
The scammers, who were targeting small business people by seemingly hacking the government's database of suppliers, were nabbed earlier this year when they brazenly lured a victim to deliver expensive booze to the office of Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi on the pretext that he had won a R200,000 tender to supply alcohol to the minister's office for Freedom Day celebrations.
The businessman was told the booze was to be served to important dignitaries at the Union Buildings on Freedom Day.
The scammers had given the businessman a fake tender to deliver expensive single malt whiskies, French champagne and pricy cognac.
The liquor list included Moët & Chandon, Hennessy Cognac, Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker Red, Gold, Green and Blue Label.
The four fraudsters' luck ran out when police pounced and arrested them.
Their downfall came about when the hapless victim went to the Department of Public Works' offices on the eve of Freedom Day to ask for a further brief because he could not find enough Moët and Hennessy to purchase according to the list supplied.
This led him to report this to the procurement department before the delivery.
After he reported the shortfall, the Department of Public Works, in conjunction with the victim and police, set up a trap leading to the arrest.
Boxes of alcohol were filled with stones to make the fraudsters believe they had the loot, before they were apprehended.
The fraudsters had asked the supplier to deliver the alcohol to a venue in Bosman Street that was not a government-owned building, confirming police and Public Works officials' suspicions that crooks were at work.
Undercover cops drove the "booze" to the building and later followed the crooks to a nearby town house, where they arrested them.
Laptops, stationery with government letterheads and Neotel cellphones used to lure unsuspecting victims were confiscated.
- Of the 51 cases reported, the Department of Public Works has been hard hit by the scammers.
Several victims reported by Sowetan were previously asked to deliver iPads and other appliances by crooks using the same modus operandi.
Other government departments that have been scammed include Health, Transport and Statistics SA, who were scammed for more than R1.6-million.
Laptops worth more than R2.2-million were also stolen in this way.
Thami Mchunu of the Department of Public Works's communications and marketing division confirmed the arrest but could not divulge details of the businessman.
"On realising that this was a scam the matter was reported to the SAPS and a joint sting operation between Public Works officials and police was set up.
"On April 27 2012 four suspects were arrested and detained at Pretoria Central," said Mchunu. The case is under investigation.
South African Police Service spokesman Vishnu Naidoo said SAPS can account for six cases of fraud reported at Pretoria Central that appear to be linked to the scam.
"In one of the cases, four suspects were arrested and taken to court but the case was withdrawn as the suspects could not be linked to the case," he said.
All the cases, including the one in which the charges were withdrawn against the four suspects, are still under investigation, he said.
"It cannot be emphasised enough that due to the complexity of fraud investigations such cases take a while to investigate and also, one cannot expect a blow-by-blow account of such investigations," Naidoo said.
- This article was first published in the printed newspaper on 30 July 2012