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Pretoria - A physiotherapist who was part of a scheme which swindled the labour department of more than R2 million has to refund the money.
The Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court ordered Rustenburg physio Jerry Sehunoe, 34, to reimburse R2.1 million to the department's Compensation Fund.
In October, the practitioner pleaded guilty to 28 counts of money laundering and 15 cases of fraud.
He was initially charged together with former labour department employees Maxwell Ramaphosa and Samuel Mfeleng.
After Sehunoe's guilty plea, the trial was separated, leaving Ramaphosa and Mfeleng to plead their innocence in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court.
The Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) approached the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court and requested to halt an earlier sentencing of Sehunoe before it conducted an inquiry into his assets.
Boitumelo Moalusi, for the AFU, told the court that following the inquiry, the full amount from the ill-gotten assets by Sehunoe was “recoverable”.
The State has apparently recovered more than R800 000 from Sehunoe - part of which has been paid to the SA Revenue Service and the auditors who conducted the inquiry.
There was debate in court on whether it would be fair for Sehunoe to be solely liable for paying back the State, or whether parts of the criminal proceeds should be recovered from Ramaphosa and Mfeleng.
Magistrate Nika Setshogoe ruled Sehunoe was liable to pay back the full amount, as a beneficiary from proceeds of crime and in light of the principle of acting in common purpose.
In addition, Setshogoe said Sehunoe would be liable to pay a daily interest fixed at 15.5 percent from the date of judgment (Tuesday) until 14 days from when the confiscation order was being carried out.
She said the two people (Ramaphosa and Mfeleng) who Sehunoe claimed received the money into their accounts were not in court.
His claims “would remain allegations” at this stage.
In his guilty plea affidavit, Sehunoe told the court he worked in collaboration with Ramaphosa and Mfeleng and had deposited large sums of money into the pair's bank accounts.
“They took advantage of my vulnerability and enticed me with cash. I did not want to be part of the scheme, but later took part of the money and used it for personal consumption,” he said.
Regular payments were made into Sehunoe's three FNB accounts between February and December 2009.
He said he would subsequently transfer some of the laundered money into the accounts of the other two. Mfeleng's share would be deposited into his Gladiator Driving School account.
At the time, Sehunoe said he had spent R539,352 of the money and was willing to pay it back.
According to court papers, several fictitious claims were made to the Compensation Fund “at inflated prices beyond the applicable rates”.
Sehunoe was arrested in May 2010. He is out on R3,000 bail.
The matter will be back in court on August 28, for the submission of pre-sentencing reports by social workers and officials from the Correctional Services department.
Ramaphosa and Mfeleng are also fighting to prove their innocence in two other alleged fraud cases.
The Compensation Fund is a public entity under the administration of the department of labour. Its function is to recompense workers who get injured or contract diseases at work. - Sapa