Mahatma Gandhi's great-granddaughter jailed for fraud in Durban. Ashish Lata Ramgobin, 56, was sentenced in the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court and was refused leave to appeal both the conviction and sentence. Picture: ANA Photographers
Mahatma Gandhi's great-granddaughter jailed for fraud in Durban. Ashish Lata Ramgobin, 56, was sentenced in the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court and was refused leave to appeal both the conviction and sentence. Picture: ANA Photographers

Gandhi’s great-granddaughter jailed for seven years for fraud

By Janine Moodley Time of article published Jun 10, 2021

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Durban: Ashish Lata Ramgobin, Mahatma Gandhi's great-granddaughter who is serving a seven-year sentence at Westville Prison for swindling a local businessman of R6.2 million, is not giving up.

The 52-year-old is applying for leave to appeal her conviction and sentence in the Durban High Court after the presiding magistrate at the Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes Court dismissed her application.

Ramgobin's mom, Ela Gandhi, who is a human rights activist and founder of the Gandhi Development Trust, said her daughter was positive and trying to stay strong.

"Since the magistrate refused her application, her lawyers are applying for leave to appeal to the high court. My daughter is strong, we stand behind her and are supporting her.

"We, as a family, are coping under the circumstances and my daughter is also trying to cope."

Gandhi said she was yet to visit Ramgobin in prison but other family members had seen her.

Gandhi said she was unable to comment further until the matter was finalised.

In 2015, the Hawks arrested Ramgobin for fraud and a second charge of forgery and uttering. According to Wikipedia, forgery creates a falsified document and uttering is the act of knowingly passing on or using the forged document. In November last year, she was found guilty on all charges.

Ramgobin ran a company called Global Services. In August 2015, she met businessman Shailendra Maharaj, the director of New Africa Alliance Footwear Distributors (NAAFD).

The company is an importer, manufacturer and wholesaler of clothing, linen and footwear. It also provides finance to companies in return for a share of the profits.

It emerged in court that Ramgobind told Maharaj she had won a R20m contract to supply the Netcare group with bedsheets and pillows. She had imported three containers of linen from India for the contract.

Natasha Kara, the KZN spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority, said Ramgobin claimed she experienced financial difficulties paying the import costs and needed money to clear the goods at the harbour.

"She advised him that she needed R6.2m. To convince him, she showed him what she claimed to be a signed purchase order for the goods."

In return for the loan, Ramgobin apparently promised to pay back the total amount and give him a share of the profits, amounting to R1.5m.

"Maharaj agreed to lend her the money and they entered into a written agreement where he paid her two instalments of R3.1m each."

Later that month, the court heard, Ramgobin sent Maharaj what seemed to be a Netcare invoice and delivery note as proof that the goods were delivered and payment was imminent. She later sent him confirmation from Netcare’s bank account that payment had been made.

However, Maharaj later discovered the contract was bogus – it had neither been advertised nor awarded.

He found out that Ramgobin did not have a purchase order with Netcare, nor did Netcare owe her money.

"In fact, Netcare had absolutely no dealing with Ramgobin in this regard. All the documents provided by Ramgobin were forgeries."

Ramgobin was subsequently arrested and stood trial. Senior advocate Wendy Obrien represented the State.

"The NPA welcomes the successful finalisation of this matter."

One of Maharaj's business partners who was affected by the fraudulent dealings, but preferred not to be named, said he was relieved that the case was finalised.

"Justice has finally been served and I believe the appropriate sentence was meted out."

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