fraud case is struck from roll

THE multi million rand fraud and theft case involving 11 people, including four Mpumalanga government employees, has been struck off the court roll after the accused were allegedly wrongfully granted bail after hours.

The 11, four men and five women, were arrested in dawn raids in Gauteng and Mpumalanga on Wednesday.

They were all accused of having defrauded the Mpumalanga government by claiming more than R2million for services that were never rendered.

They were arrested after members of the Assets Forfeiture Unit traced and exposed a list of luxury vehicles and items in six expensively furnished houses at KwaMhlanga in Mpumalanga, Bronkhorstspruit in Gauteng, Crystal Park, Daveyton and Geduld in Springs, Ekurhuleni in Gauteng.

The suspects appeared after hours in the KwaMhlanga magistrate's court on the day of their arrest. Nine were granted bail of R10000 each, while two were released on R40000 bail each.

The accused appeared again in court the following day and the magistrate decided to strike the case off the roll, saying that the prosecution had committed a serious offence sitting after hours for a Schedule 5 charge.

The magistrate said that out of the 11 suspects, only the 33-year-old mother of a recently born baby qualified for an after-hours sitting.

Police spokesperson Captain Leonard Hlathi said that in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, "the magistrate can amend, repeal or cancel a decision taken by the prosecutor".

"We have applied more effort and resources to ensure that we have a strong case against the suspects," Hlathi added.

He said the police planned to re-summon the suspects. Among the arrested were a former deputy director of Mpumalanga's agriculture department, and a former assistant director for expenditure.

The other accused were the secretary of the KwaMhlanga district manager; the mother of a three-week-old baby; a Zion Christian Church pastor and his wife; a man and his wife, of Crystal Park; a woman from KwaMhlanga. Among the others were a woman employee of the government from KwaMhlanga; and another woman of East Lynne in Pretoria.