Cape Town - The case of four would-be Western Cape farmers, who in 2019 allegedly duped the government into giving them two farms worth R8.6 million under the land redistribution scheme, has been postponed to April 2022 for plea and trial.
The four, Ralph Damonse, Manuel Cohen, Isak Saal and Reginald le Fleur, are charged with fraud and money laundering in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Bellville.
NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said: “The long postponement will allow Saal’s newly appointed legal representative to be ready for the trial.”
The four were arrested through a court summons in March 2019, following an investigation by the Hawks into their deal which involved getting money by misrepresentation from the then Department of Rural Development and Land Affairs.
The investigation focused on the alleged role all four played in the sale of portions of farms acquired through the department’s land redistribution programme.
The two farms, one in Vredendal, worth R3m, and another in St Helena Bay, valued at R5.6m, were given to the suspects as part of the government’s efforts to redress historical imbalances.
Cohen sold his farm to Saal who represented the Greek Burger Landbou Trust. Le Fleur was the treasurer of the trust and Damonse was the agent who facilitated the sale. Funds from the sale were to come from the department.
The four suspects allegedly sold a portion of the St Helena farm, which they acquired through the Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD), grant for R3 million,
One of the criteria for funding from the department was that applicants apply jointly, rather than as individuals.
Hundreds of people unwittingly became beneficiaries in the lucrative scheme when the four alleged fraudsters provided their names to the department of rural development and land reform in order to meet the requirements.
The Hawks investigation found the St Helena farm had almost 200 “ghost members” who had been included in one such group without their knowledge while the Vredendal group had 50 “ghost members.”