Picture: succo/Pixabay

Johannesburg - A businessman who allegedly swindled more than R20-million from major banks in South Africa has been name-dropping Police Minister Bheki Cele in an allegedly violent crime spree in which cops were assaulted.

Howard Mashaba, a businessman from Limpopo, appeared in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Joburg on Thursday on three counts of fraud for allegedly running an elaborate scheme with his girlfriend, Grace Maunatlala.

However, two weeks ago Mashaba allegedly assaulted a crime intelligence officer and the officer’s brother in Giyani with his “goons”, damaging a state vehicle in the process by allegedly breaking its windows.

Sources close to the assault probe in Giyani have labelled Mashaba as “untouchable” because of his supposed friendship with the station commander, Colonel Chris Mabasa.

Mashaba and Mabasa allegedly tried to get the “assaulted” crime intelligence officer, whose name is known to The Star, not to open a case against the businessman. They claimed to personally know Cele and threatened that any charges laid would backfire on the complainant.

In the fraud matter, a leaked investigation report showed how Mashaba used Maunatlala as a front for a company known as Magitrax to move money out of Nedbank into an FNB account - with almost R7million in transactions recorded.

According to the report, Mashaba also used another relative, whose name is known to The Star but has yet to be charged, to disguise himself as the businessman to get R9.2m for a fleet of buses, which the accused fraudster operates out of Limpopo.

“He (Mashaba) is a businessman with companies under his name and links to a number of (other) businesses. He is involved with Magitrax and operates numerous businesses from the account.

“(Mashaba) is listed on the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service by Nedbank for submitting fraudulent documents in 2011 - he submitted Absa bank statements on a Nedbank loan application,” read the report, which The Star has seen.

The report lists a slew of other alleged fraudulent accounts from three major banks, Nedbank, Absa and FNB, as well as vehicle finance institutions such as VW and Mercedes-Benz to amass his fleet of vehicles.

“Magitrax financed 10 buses with Mercedes-Benz in 2017 and failed to pay, and the list of assets they gave were the same as when they applied at Nedbank under false pretences,” the report added.

Cumulatively, the alleged fraud totalled roughly R20.6m, with investigators, who spoke on condition of anonymity, saying more charges were expected to be added and the amount to grow.

Mashaba and Maunatlala’s case was postponed to September for further investigation, and both were out on bail.

They have indicated that they will deny the charges.

Reneilwe Serero, spokesperson for Cele, said the minister interacted with many prominent people, but had at no point condoned the use of his name to bypass the law.

“The minister distances himself from the ‘businessman’, who is unknown to Minister Cele. If there’s one thing the Ministry of Police condemns in the strongest possible terms , it is any form of attack on the police.

“Necessary and harsh steps will be taken against those who do such. The office of the national commissioner will also look at the matter,” Serero said.

Limpopo police spokesperson Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe confirmed that an investigation into Mashaba and the Giyani police station had been launched, and would provide results by next week.

National police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo also confirmed that the national office was aware of the case.

@khayakoko88

The Star