Former cop fights for workers after farmer’s alleged TERS fraud
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Cape Town – Former Graafwater police officer Jim Swartz took it upon himself to fight for vulnerable farm workers, after he discovered a local farmer had been allegedly defrauding them of Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) funds.
The Department of Employment and Labour is working with police to track down the Dagbreek Farm owner, who allegedly defrauded the fund of R109 376.39, claiming Ters for seven employees for the period of March 27 until September 15, without their knowledge.
Swartz said the alarm was raised when his brother who works on the farm mentioned that he was wondering why the farmer had not lodged a police complaint against an employee who apparently ran off with R4 000 when they were expected to pay back money that was “accidentally” paid into their accounts by the farmer.
“They don’t have cellphone banking so they did not even know money was paid into their account. The farmer would alert them and then say it was accidentally paid from some loan and take them to the ATM, let them withdraw the money and pay it to him.
“I knew something was not right. After 15 years in the police you learn to trust your gut. I then told them (the workers) to give me their bank cards and drew everyone’s bank statements.
“It was so bad that in some cases he was taking more money from them than had even been deposited because they were unaware. One guy earns R600 a week for four days as a general worker and he receives a disability grant.
’’I studied his statements and saw there was a month where the farmer only paid R1 050 but took R1 900 from the guy. This man is a breadwinner,” he said.
Swartz said he then asked the farmer to pay the workers back.
“I was hoping he would pay them back so they could have an early bonus because they get paid next to nothing. I decided to go to the police,” he said.
Department of Labour provincial chief inspector David Esau said: “The Inspectorate confirms that attempts to reach the employer have been unsuccessful.
’’The department is in possession of the bank statements of the workers which show the money was paid into their bank accounts from the employer’s account.
’’Our records further indicate that at no stage did the employer return the money to the fund, and this is therefore deemed a criminal offence which the SAPS in Graafwater is dealing with.”
Police spokesperson FC van Wyk said a fraud case was registered, but no arrests had been made.
Attempts to reach the farmer were unsuccessful.