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Social grant fraud syndicate suspects appear in court

Fourteen people accused of corruption and fraud related to social grants‚ including the alleged mastermind behind the syndicate which was spread across the country‚ appeared in the Bellville Magistrates’ Court in Cape Town on Monday.

An operation between the South African Social Security Angency (SASSA) and the Hawks resulted in the arrest of 15 people from the same alleged syndicate.

The syndicate is accused of defrauding SASSA of more than R2.3 million through about 400 social grants. Eight of the accused worked in SASSA’s Grants Administration Department.

The syndicate forms part of a “broader on-going criminal investigation involving more than 4‚776 fraudulent social grants‚ amounting to more than R34.7 million identified to date‚” according to a SASSA and Hawks statement.

The suspected mastermind is a private individual known as Nelisiwe Msimang and was arrested near Cape Town International airport on Friday.

 “For us this definitely is the biggest syndicate‚ as we took down every level of the syndicate. We also took down three private individuals (who were) middle people or the agents‚” said the general manager for SASSA’s Fraud Management and Compliance department Renay Ogle.

She said the victims of the syndicate are “the poorest of the poor” and the “most vulnerable.

“This money that we are losing through alleged fraudulent incidents‚ this attack on the social grants system is an attack on the poorest of the poor. It renders us at SASSA unable to fulfill our mandate which is to provide comprehensive social security against vulnerability and poverty‚” she said.

“Currently our focus is on this syndicate‚ to prioritize it‚ and to take it down.”

The suspects are from Gauteng‚ North West‚ KwaZulu-Natal‚ and the Western Cape and raids by a joint task team on a property where fraudulent IDs were manufactured (also called a “boiler room”) found laptops‚ scanners‚ copying machines‚ ID’s‚ copies of IDs‚ ID templates‚ CPS enrolment machines‚ printers‚ electronic storage devices‚ bank cards and SASSA cards.

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