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Durban - A KwaZulu-Natal businessman known for his charitable work, who is also an ANC benefactor who cheated to get work worth more than R52 million from the provincial government, has pleaded guilty to fraud and corruption charges, but says that “there is no need to say sorry, because I have done nothing wrong”.
Ishwarlall (Ishwar) Ramlutchman, the headline-hogging “philanthropist” who raised 12 Sivananda peace pillars across the country, will be sentenced on Tuesday.
His assets, consisting of properties in Ballito and La Lucia, as well as 26 luxury vehicles, including seven Mercedes-Benzes, a BMW 5 Series and a Toyota Fortuner, were seized by the Asset Forfeiture Unit this week, acting on a restraint order from the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
Ramlutchman, through his company AC Industrial, allegedly submitted false documents to the Construction Industry Development Board to improve the firm’s grading to bid for tenders larger than it had the capacity to deliver on.
AC Industrial’s grading was increased after it submitted falsified construction industry documents and he received 16 projects between May 2006 and August 2008 worth over R52m.
These included work at 14 schools and two hospitals.
Ramlutchman and AC Industrial were charged in the Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes Court for fraud and corruption in September. He pleaded guilty this month and was freed on bail of R20 000.
In court papers it is alleged that AC Industrial submitted:
l False documents about its track record for completed projects.
l False financial statements.
l False declarations about the hiring of qualified professionals.
l Fraudulently obtained construction board grades.
Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Kenneth Samuel said in his affidavit that Ramlutchman had been awarded the contracts worth more than R52m as a result of the criminal activity.
Investigating officer Lieutenant-Colonel Neetesh Baijnath’s affidavit said fraudulent documents were submitted to the construction board.
“Documents submitted to the CIDB by Ramlutchman or a person behaving on behalf of AC Industrial were fraudulent and the awarding of the CIDB grades were based upon misrepresentations made to them.
“Had the CIDB been made aware of the misrepresentations made to them, they would not have awarded the grades as they did.”
Baijnath said AC Industrial also submitted false annual financial statements claiming a turnover of R84m.
“The statements were false and not a true reflection of the company’s financial status.
“In May 2009, CIDB held an internal hearing into the allegations of misrepresentation by AC Industrial.
“Ramlutchman pleaded guilty to all charges but stated that all the fraudulent documents were submitted by his accountant on his behalf, that the signatures on the documents were not his and he never authorised his accountant to sign on his behalf.”
But he accepted full responsibility for submitting the fraudulent documentation, the policeman said.
The Richards Bay businessman, known for his charitable work, including renovating orphanages and giving homes to the poor, has close ties with King Goodwill Zwelithini.
He met the monarch at a King Shaka Day celebration years ago, and previously said: “Our relationship grew from there. I hold him in great esteem, and am as close to him as a son can be to his father.”
He was also one of a few invited to celebrate former president Nelson Mandela’s birthday in Qunu last year with senior ANC officials and former US president Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea.
Ramlutchman said yesterday that he was innocent.
“I didn’t do it. It was somebody else from my company. I was unwittingly caught in this situation. I have never stolen any money from the state. I have not stolen or misappropriated any money. The incorrect information was submitted by service providers who acted on my behalf.”
But he has pleaded guilty because he felt accountable as the business owner.