Durban’s Little Gujarat restaurant owners, Varsha, 44, and Hiteshkumar Bhatt, 46, leave the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court, where they have been charged with four counts of corruption, for allegedly selling places at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Picture: Leon Lestrade
Durban - The magnitude of evidence relating to the sale of places to study medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and other universities has prompted the State to request a six-month adjournment to investigate.

Three Durban suspects who were arrested in May appeared in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court this week on corruption charges. An adjournment was granted.

The owners of popular Little Gujarat Restaurant, Varsha and Hitesh Bhatt, as well as uMhlanga businesswoman, Preshni Hiramun, will be back in the dock in March next year.

The trio are allegedly part of a syndicate that sold sought-after places at the institution for up to R500 000.

They are facing corruption charges after a sting operation led by the Hawks Organised Crime Unit arrested them when the 2017 university admission period opened.

They were released on R40 000 bail each.

The suspects this week requested for their bail conditions to be relaxed so that the Bhatts, who are from India, can visit their home country later this year.

The court granted this.

Preshni Hiramun, 54. Picture: Leon Lestrade

The Bhatts, who have children who study at UKZN, will also now be allowed to enter the university premises. Previous bail conditions stated they would not be allowed to do so.

State prosecutor Attie Truter said the matter had become one of national interest as the investigation continues to extend beyond UKZN and that the Minister of Higher Education and Training was monitoring the investigation.

Truter said the State intended adding racketeering charges and when this happened, it would be moved to the Durban High Court.

Meanwhile, from a national outlook, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education said it recently had a briefing on this matter in Joburg.

The Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in Pretoria North, formerly known as Medunsa, has handed over its evidence to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

The university said it would work with the Hawks to identify those involved.

Higher Education Parliamentary Portfolio Committee spokesperson Sibongile Maputi, said:

“The vice-chancellor of SMU, Professor Chris De Beer, has informed us that he has met with NPA head, Shaun Abrahams, to discuss the matter and said they would work with the Hawks.

“Students who were pointed out are under investigation. He said there were strong links to the suspects in KZN who are linked to the investigation,” said Maputi.

Sunday Tribune