Land scam: farms taken over

2011-03-12 00:00

THE Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) moved yesterday to preserve two more farms in Ladysmith alleged to have been fraudulently acquired with millions of rands in funding obtained under false pretences from the Rural Development and Land Reform Department in terms of the government’s land restitution and redistribution policy.

Late last year the AFU placed eight farms at Elandslaagte under curatorship following an investigation into the alleged scam. In February this year, the probe led to the arrest of Ladysmith businessman Roshen Sewpersad (39) and three officials of the Rural Development and Land Reform Department — Promise Phumzile Makhanya (41), Bhekumuzi Patrick Masoka (45) and Sibusiso Chapi (38).

The farms were purchased under the Elandsjagt project for which the department paid a project grant of R36 million. The ultimate beneficiary of their eventual transfer was an entity known as Abrina 6822 whose sole shareholder, the Roscoe Family Trust, was entirely controlled by the Sewpersad family, in particular Roshen, according to court papers.

Sewpersad is on bail of R50 000 and his co-accused were granted bail of R20 000 each.

Yesterday the AFU moved to take over two more farms, Arcadia and Kuickvlei, for purposes of “preserving” them pending the outcome of an application for forfeiture on grounds that they are the proceeds of illegal activity.

The cost of the Arcadia Project was R9 718 189 and Kuickvlei cost R5 120 117.

Investigating officer Wayne Jacoby said in court papers his investigations have established that the “ultimate beneficiary” of the purchase of Arcadia has turned out to be “another Abrina entity, Abrina 6658”, and that funding was obtained through “misrepresentations”.

“This entity also has a strong Sewpersad family connection because its only director and company secretary is Neresha Sewpersad, wife of Roshen, who is heavily implicated in the Elandsjagt project fraud,” said Jacoby.

He said during his investigations it became clear that a list of 68 “beneficiaries” of the Arcadia project was fabricated and the overwhelming majority of them had no idea that someone had sourced state funding using their names and identities.

The court was referred to statements by numerous so-called beneficiaries who denied putting their names forward for an application to secure grants from the department.

Jacoby said it is clear from a reading of all the various statements obtained by him that fraud was committed by “at least two protagonists, being Chapi and Roshen Sewpersad”.

The other property seized by the AFU is portion 27 of the farm Kuickvlei, owned by the Mvelwenhle Community Trust.

According to court papers, the purchase of the farm with the department’s funds was based on a fraudulent memorandum, forged documents and reports. The project officer implicated in the alleged fraud is identified in the court papers as Patrick Masoka.

According to the court papers, investigations revealed that the alleged trustees were unaware they had been appointed to the trust, and some of the alleged beneficiaries were not registered as claimants on the farm and had never worked or lived on the farm.

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