Escaped suspect recaptured in R20-million fraud case

2009-09-29 00:00

FRAUD suspect Sipho Msomi,who escaped nine months ago pending his trial for defrauding state departments in KwaZulu-Natal of more than R20 million, was recaptured by Pietermaritzburg’s commercial branch as he prepared to leave Port Elizabeth by bus at the weekend.

Msomi appeared in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court yesterday alongside two local policemen charged with helping him to escape — Sihle Njilo (31) and Makhosonkhe Ndlela (40).

Msomi, who is reportedly a computer expert, is alleged to be a key member of a syndicate that defrauded state departments in the province of vast sums of money. This was done by installing “spy software” on computers in government departments to gain access to the user identities and passwords of employees.

The information was used to manipulate the finances of the departments concerned, including the SA Social Security Agency and Education Department.

According to evidence led at one of Msomi’s earlier bail applications, the syndicate was held responsible for the murder of a number of state witnesses and “whistleblowers”.

Msomi was cited as one of the “controlling heads” of the crime organisation.

He is facing fraud charges in three cases in Pietermaritzburg but, when he escaped from custody on December 9 last year, preparations were already underway by the director of public prosecutions to combine the cases.

Investigating officer Inspector Stephen Gouws and his colleague, Inspector Sunette Potgieter, left no stone unturned in the search for Msomi and their determination was finally rewarded when they successfully tracked him to Port Elizabeth on Friday.

Exactly what led to the breakthrough is being kept a secret due to the sensitivity of the case.

“It was a big challenge for us and, fortunately, he is back behind bars,” said Gouws.

With the assistance of members of the Port Elizabeth commercial branch headed by Captain Sam Meyer, Gouws and Potgieter boarded a bus en route to Johannesburg just as it was leaving the coastal city, and put an end to Msomi’s nine months of freedom.

Gouws and his team were de­vastated when they learned, in January this year, of Msomi’s escape from custody while being ta­ken from the magistrate’s court to prison.

Subsequent investigations resulted in the arrest of policemen Njilo and Ndlela, who face charges of aiding and abetting a prisoner to escape, defeating the ends of justice and corruption.

The policemen were granted bail of R3 000 in March.

The case was postponed to October 30 to enable Msomi to arrange for legal representation. He faces an additional charge of escaping.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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