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Three arrested for trying to swindle insurance firm

POLICE in Mpumalanga arrested three people at the weekend for making a false death claim.

The three included a policeman and a female insurance broker. They allegedly made a false death claim to fraudulently claim millions of rand from an insurance company.

The alleged death of businesswoman Petronella Francom has come back to haunt all those who allegedly participated in her fake death in a staged road accident.

Francom's body was allegedly burnt beyond recognition on May 22 last year.

Nobody would have guessed that the body that was burnt beyond recognition when Francom's VW Caravelle ran over a cliff on the Long Tom Pass near Sabie was actually not hers but that of a black man.

Sowetan has established that the body had been stolen from a mortuary in Sabie.

The body had remained unclaimed for a long time and was about to be given a pauper's burial.

Francom and her husband Clint were running a business called Positive Publishing. Sole ownership was transferred to Francom shortly before her supposed death.

Mpumalanga police spokesperson Leonard Hlathi said: "It seems the business was a pyramid scheme that had attracted R6million from investors.

"When she 'died', she 'died' with investors' money. Immediately after her death we found out that she also had R10million life cover.

"The situation raised suspicions. It is the first of its kind in this province.

"We have never dealt with a fraud case as complicated as this one."

Members of the organised crime unit pounced on the three suspects on Saturday.

The suspects are an elderly man based at the Kruger Lodge in Hazyview, a local insurance broker and a policeman based in Sabie.

The three are scheduled to appear in court today to face fraud charges.

With the motive suspected to be that of swindling the insurance company, the case shows striking similarities to The Partner, a novel by John Grisham.

In the novel the main character cleverly steals millions of dollars and places a corpse in his car, which is made to crash before bursting into flames.

In the novel it is made to look as if the man died in the crash, while in fact the plan is to steal millions of dollars from the law firm at which he was a "partner".

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