Doctors fraud case struck off roll

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Doctors Mahendra Pramchand and Anez Awath Behari, in a picture taken in January. File photo: Marilyn Bernard

KwaZulu-Natal - Durban doctor couple Mahendra Pramchand and Anez Awath Behari were ecstatic after they applied successfully for their R3.5 million medical aid fraud case to be struck off the roll of the Commercial Crime Court.

The couple, who are divorced but still live together, were charged with more than 200 counts of fraud and contravening the Medical Schemes Act.

The State alleged that the couple defrauded medical schemes Polmed, a medical aid for police officers, and Bonitas between June 2007 and January 2008 by putting in false claims for patients, claiming they had received treatment at the Prydon Clinic, a rehabilitation institute for alcohol and drug abuse.

It was alleged that Behari owned the Prydon clinic and Pramchand, a general practitioner who also had a business management diploma, managed the clinic and consulted patients.

Earlier this month, defence attorney Themba Mjoli, for Pramchand, and advocate Murray Pitman, for Behari, applied for the matter to be struck off the court roll, arguing that the State was causing “unreasonable delays”.

They said the delays were severely prejudicial to the doctors, and the State had failed to provide documents that would be used in the trial.

Acting magistrate PM Govender gave State advocate Ashika Luckan until Wednesday to hand over the documents.

But the defence argued that several of the documents given to them were illegible and others had not been handed over.

The defence also said there were statements relating to only 80 charges and that there was no evidence to support the remaining 176 counts.

Luckan conceded that some of the documents were illegible, but said she had made the docket available to the defence and they could make copies from the originals.

She also said the State would have proceeded only on the charges that had supporting statements.

Govender said the State had breached his order by failing to give the defence legible documents, and struck the matter off the roll. He warned the doctors that if the State got “its house in order”, they could reinstate the charges.

Outside the court on Wednesday, Pramchand said he and Behari were pleased with the magistrate’s decision.

“We feel justice has been done. This case was brought against us in a malicious manner, we were paraded before the media and charged with hundreds of counts… it was tantamount to persecution.”

Pramchand said that because of the case, Behari had been labelled a fake doctor and he had faced challenges as medical aid companies did not want to deal with him. - The Mercury


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