Two former State Theatre staffers must pay back stolen R24 million
Pretoria - Two former State Theatre employees have been ordered by the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria to pay back - jointly and severally - more than R24 million stolen from the facility over a number of years.
Judge Nicolene Janse van Nieuwenhuizen earlier this month also ordered that 17 other respondents had to also pay amounts owing to the entity regarding the alleged theft or fraud.
These respondents consist of 10 individuals into whose bank account some of the amounts were paid. While many of these people are unknown to the theatre, it is claimed that at least two accounts were linked to other workers there.
Four companies who received some of the cash also had to pay the money back, while five major banks who received payments via some of the companies or individuals’ accounts had to transfer the amounts reflected in the accounts over to the theatre.
This order followed an urgent application earlier this year when the theatre had to rush to court to obtain an order freezing the bank accounts of those it suspected at the time of being involved in the fraud or theft.
It came to light - to the utter shock of the theatre’s management - that alleged fraud and theft to the tune of more than R24m had been committed against the theatre.
In the latest application, Judge Janse van Nieuwenhuizen ordered that apart from the other individuals and companies having to pay back amounts ranging between several millions and, in some instances, hundreds of thousands.
In addition. Mokgadi Mooka, who worked there as a creditors clerk, and Sibongile Mabena, who was in the supply management chain, between them had to ensure that R24 681 265.01 was paid back.
It was stated that management only became aware of the transactions in December last year after being alerted by Absa that suspicious transactions had been detected.
While it was shocking, investigations showed that the alleged theft and fraud had been going on from at least 2014, and that more than R24m was involved.
The theatre's chief executive, Dr Sibongiseni Mkhize, said in an affidavit that Mooka and Mabena were implicated from the start.
The police as well as the Hawks are investigating the claims of fraud and theft. Both employees resigned shortly after the allegations came to light.
Mkhize said at first they did not not have much information about the other bank accounts, but it appeared that money was unlawfully transferred to the bank accounts of the two suspects as well as to various other bank accounts.
When the allegations first surfaced, management called a staff meeting to make them aware of these claims.
He said that Mabena then resigned, but during an exit meeting she was called in and asked whether she knew anything about the missing money. “She confessed by saying ‘I have been meaning to tell you for a long time…’”
Management then met with Mooka, who was also questioned about the fraudulent transactions.
“She confessed that she was aware of it and had been guilty of effecting these fraudulent payments.”
Mkhize said Mooka at first claimed that she only commenced with these acts during the last part of 2019.
”This was clearly untrue as we all knew it had been going on since at least 2014,” he said.
Mkhize added that Mooka said she worked closely with Mabena in this regard. She ensured the money was paid to her, Mabena and several people known or related to them.
Chartered accountants were employed to investigate the matter and they brought out a report confirming the alleged corruption. It was found that Mooka loaded payments on the internet banking service of the theatre on a once-off payment basis.
Her modus operandi was apparently to change the bank account number to which the payment should be made, to an unknown third party's bank account number.
In other cases it appeared the supplier documentation was changed to reflect the banking details of the suspected accounts.
At the time the chartered accountants issued their report, 260 suspected transactions had been identified, spanning five financial years from 2015 to the date of discovering the alleged fraudulent scheme.
While Mooka did not state her side to the court in this latest application, Mabena questioned the auditor's report, but did not contest the facts.