Durban - The woes of former eThekwini municipal mayor Zandile Gumede and her co-accused deepened after new evidence highlighted in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court yesterday allegedly ballooned the fraud case against them to R389 million.
State prosecutor Ashika Lucken asked Magistrate Dawn Somaroo for more time to traverse through a voluminous amount of new evidence that allegedly increases the total amount of fraud and corruption proceeds in the dodgy Durban Solid Waste (DSW) tender deal by R181m.
The State has alleged that this further sum was transferred to various accounts relating to the tender deal and that payments continued from July 2018 to June last year, despite the contract having ended in 2018.
Investigating teams initially found that R208m was the proceeds of tender fraud.
However, Lucken told the court yesterday that a large bundle of documents found in Sandile Ngcobo’s house during the Asset Forfeiture Unit raids in October proved otherwise. Ngcobo, deputy head of eThekwini municipality’s supply chain management unit, is the second accused in the matter.
Gumede and 15 others, including deputy head of strategy and new development Robert Abbu, Hlenga Sibisi, Mzwandile Dludla, Sinthamone Ponnan, Sithulele Mkhize, Bongani Dlomo and Prabagaram Pariah, sat in the dock yesterday, facing charges of corruption, money laundering and fraud.
Lucken said investigating teams were tracing the money trail and “joining the dots” by looking into businesses’ and individuals’ financial documents.
She said investigating and forensic audit teams had subpoenaed 489 bank documents from businesses and individuals. They had examined 70% of these but still had 130 statements to analyse and a further 22 to obtain.
She said there were huge hurdles retrieving bank statements as banks had been instructed to prioritise the Zondo Commission into State Capture.
“We had to call on Sabric (South African Banking Risk Information Centre) to intervene and fast-track this as we were in a crisis situation and needed the bank statements urgently. Team leaders from the SAPS were also called in to assist,” Lucken said.
The court also heard that investigating teams obtained details of 3200 transactions and supporting documents pertaining to 61 vehicles that were allegedly used for illegal dumping. The teams had worked through weighbridge slips and vehicle ownership paperwork.
During their raids, the teams also retrieved more than 205GB of data from hard drives, telephones, laptops and desktop computers. Lucken said teams had analysed about 65% of the data. About 5250 pages of documents were also seized from four businesses.
Subpoenas were issued to retrieve cellphone accounts and teams had already worked through 39000 pages of cellphone records, analysing 700000 lines of calls and message data, Lucken said.
“The investigating teams conducted 107 interviews during the investigation period and obtained 55 affidavits,” she said.
Lucken said the thorough investigation would benefit the State and the accused who would be able to clearly see the dates of transactions and calls.
She asked the court for a six-month adjournment to finalise investigations, saying that the State would have been ready with its case had it not found documents during the raid that showed payments were made for almost a year after the DSW contract ended.
“I can say quite confidently that there will not be another request for an adjournment because there are no further payments related to this contract. There’s sufficient manpower behind this case,” Lucken said.
She said the request for the adjournment was for investigating teams to deal with data obtained for the period July 2018 to June last year. She said intelligence gathering was ongoing.
“This relates to money-laundering charges. We are trying to see where the money ended up,” she added.
Some of the accuseds’ attorneys raised concern that the State would return in six months and ask for a further adjournment, saying it had found new evidence. However, Lucken said that would not happen.
Somaroo adjourned the matter to April 16.
Gumede is out on R50 000 bail.
Lucken said the four councillors and eight weighbridge officials who were arrested in December last year would be dealt with in a separate prosecution.
They are facing charges of money laundering, fraud and generating false weighbridge receipts which were used by four businesses to claim payments from the city, and of contravening the Municipal Finance Management Act and Municipal System Act.