Joburg Fresh Produce Market official appears over alleged R5.5m fraud
Share this article:
Cape Town – A senior Joburg Fresh Produce Market official Lindo Ababio appeared at the Johannesburg Specialised Commercial Crimes’ Court yesterday on charges of fraud totalling R5.5 million.
Ababio’s accomplices - a colleague and a male suspect – are on the run.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwana said Ababio was released on R10 000 bail and will be back in court on December 1 as the investigation was still ongoing.
City of Johannesburg’s strategic stakeholder management Group Forensic and Investigation Service director, Lucky Sindane, said the trio are all Zimbabwean nationals. The other two are suspected to be on the run, having fled the country.
“This is the first of its kind but we are not ruling out any possibilities of related cases,” Sindane said.
In a statement, the City of Johannesburg said Ababio was in an acting position as a compliance accountant, allegedly using her powers to administer buyers’ guarantees at the market. She allegedly poured funds into a deceased person buyers card.
“The guarantees were loaded into a buyer's card belonging to a deceased person without supporting documents from the bank as required,” read the statement
The card was allegedly reactivated last year on October 26 and was loaded with R40 000, increasing to R600 000 in March and about R5.5 million in July this year.
The statement added that the suspects, with the help of a member of the public, used the buyer’s card to buy fruits and vegetables at the market and sell them at a discounted amount to various business owners, then take the proceeds of the sales.
Joburg mayor Mpho Moerane said he commended the members of the Hawks and the city’s Group Forensic and Investigation Service department who acted swiftly to deal with the matter.
He said he was confident that the other two suspects will be arrested soon.
“Corruption has no place in this administration and we will work tirelessly, and in collaboration with law enforcement agencies, to ensure that the residents of Johannesburg receive the quality services they deserve,” Morerane said.
In 2017 a fraud totalling R7.5m was uncovered at the fresh produce market.
Then head of the city’s anti-corruption unite Major-General Shadrack Sibiya submitted a report detailing theft, fraud and corruption at the market.
The report found that three officials at the market, alongside three suppliers, allegedly defrauded the city by misrepresenting the amount of various goods received via the market’s procurement processes.
The modus operandi allegedly involved not delivering goods but getting paid, not completing orders and overcharging for what had been delivered, former Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba reportedly pointed out.
“The officials fraudulently misrepresented the completeness of services rendered by some suppliers, causing substantial financial loss to the market,” he said.
"One such case of misrepresentation cost residents R1.8m. In another instance, the market overpaid by R5m to a supplier with whom employees of the market had business interests,” Mashaba said.