R2m fraud case delayed

THE case against 11 suspects who allegedly defrauded the Mpumalanga department of agriculture of more than R2million has been postponed to August 27.

The suspects appeared in the KwaMhlanga magistrate's court late on Friday. Their case was adjourned for further investigation.

Captain Leonard Hlathi said the suspects were initially arrested on May 5 and June 6 but the case was withdrawn.

He said the court cited the reason for the withdrawal as that in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, the prosecutor had no right to organise a special court for an after-hour bail application.

"We then lodged an application that the case should be reinstated. The suspects were issued with notices to appear before court again. Charges, which include racketeering, theft, money laundering and corruption, were also added."

Three of the suspects are former employees of the department.

The probe began on November 24 last year after the department discovered that suspicious sums had been paid to various companies, he said.

Hlathi said the investigation also revealed that four companies were regularly receiving payments from the department without offering any services.

"It is alleged that the officials created bogus services they claimed were needed by the department, and approved the payments," he said.

"The owners of these companies then allegedly moved the money to the officials' bank accounts. At some stage, the money was deposited into the bank account of one of the official's wife, while other payments were made to individuals."

A secretary is alleged to have captured claims and payments while her job description did not allow that.