Durban - THE criminal case against former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and 11 other accused took a dramatic turn yesterday when law-enforcement agencies seized properties, including luxury vehicles belonging to them and companies linked to them.
Last week, the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) obtained a restraint order for assets valued at about R51 million.
Natasha Kara, the National Prosecuting Authority’s provincial spokesperson, said the seizure related to allegations of fraud and corruption against Gumede, councillor Mondli Mthembu and two senior municipal officials: Sandile Ngcobo and Robert Abbu.
Ngcobo is the city’s supply chain deputy head, while Abbu is deputy head of Durban’s solid waste department. They were charged with solid- waste tender fraud involving more than R230.5 million.
“The AFU as part of a multi-disciplinary task team comprising members of the SAPS and the National Clean Audit task team seized the assets of several accused persons charged with fraud, corruption and money laundering.
“These assets include immovable property located in Zimbali and uMhlanga Rocks, luxury vehicles, assets hidden in trusts, companies, and cash in bank accounts. The assets seized will be held under restraint, pending the outcome of the criminal matter,” Kara said.
She said R415 000 in cash, a Lamborghini, two Porsche vehicles, two Jaguars, a Mercedes-Benz GTS, Land Rover, Audi and jewellery were found on the properties.
“All properties belonging to the accused in various areas including Zimbali, uMhlanga, eManzimtoti, Chatsworth and Inanda were seized. A number of other vehicles like VW Polos and Toyotas were also found on the properties,” she said.
Details of what was found in which house were not immediately clear.
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the process to execute the court order was under way.
“The curator and the Sheriff were there so it’s just a matter of how to clear the assets. Some of the items would be taken for storage,” he said.
Mulaudzi said the accused still had an opportunity to challenge the process.
Gumede told eNCA that what happened to her was painful.
“Lies have short legs. They came and asked for Lamborghinis. I don’t have money; I’m as poor as a church mouse,” she said.
Attempts to get comment from Abbu, Mthembu and Ngcobo were unsuccessful.
The criminal matter returns to court on January 15.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) said the raid was a clear message that the state was serious about fighting corruption.
Provincial manager Tim Tyrrell said: “We believe this seizure operation should have happened shortly after Gumede and her co-accused were arrested in May, as they may have since disposed of assets.
“However, the action by the AFU is still welcomed.
“If the assets seized were bought with stolen taxpayers’ money, then taxpayers deserve to get their money back in the event of a guilty verdict.
“He said it was now up to the NPA to present a strong case and obtain a guilty verdict.”