PMB councillors stung

2008-04-12 00:00

Msunduzi ANC councillor Themba Zungu and Speaker Alpha Shelembe, together with controversial businessman Lucky Moloi and a property developer, Neville Watts, were arrested in an early morning swoop by the Scorpions yesterday and charged with corruption relating to money laundering.

The charges relate to 2002/2003, when Zungu, Shelembe and Moloi were councillors in the uMgungundlovu District Municipality. They are alleged to have colluded to buy a property, the MIB Building at 176 Langalibalele (Longmarket) Street at an inflated price.

The charge sheet alleges that the initial purchase price was R6 million, and that Moloi and district Mayor Bongi Sithole allegedly met and negotiated with one of the owners, Gavin Breetzke, to increase the price to R6,85 million, with the owners getting their original asking price, and the rest allegedly going as "commission" to councillors who made the deal happen.

A payment of R150 000 allegedly went to Zungu, and R200 000 each allegedly went to Moloi and Shelembe. Moloi’s money was paid directly into his bank account, while the state alleges that Zungu’s and Shelembe’s money was laundered through several different accounts to conceal its source.

Watts was charged with money laundering, for allegedly arranging for Zungu’s and Shelembe’s money to be paid in other names. Zungu’s money was allegedly paid into the bank account of a friend, T. Xaba, while Shelembe’s payments allegedly went into the bank account of his sister and cheques were allegedly made out to his wife’s catering company.

Zungu and Shelembe were also charged with money laundering for making cheques out to third parties. Zungu is alleged to have deposited a cheque into an Absa vehicle finance bank account, to allegedly ensure the release of a motor vehicle registered to him, with registration number FLO1 ZN, that had been allegedly claimed by Absa vehicle finance for non-payment.

The councillors and former councillor were also charged with fraud for alleged misrepresentation to district municipal officials and councillors that the price of the property was the most favourable.

The bail hearing was held in semi-darkness, with the use of a rechargable light, due to load shedding.

The accused indicated that they intend to plead not guilty and were released on bail.

Watts, who had no legal representative, and claimed to have no assets besides a car and furniture, was granted bail of R2 000. The others, who each had their own legal representative, were granted bail of R5 000 each. They must all report regularly to the police.

Watts, Zungu and Shelembe do not have passports and Moloi said he lost his in October last year soon after returning from a trip to the Czech Republic. He said he has not reported his lost passport to Home Affairs and he swore he will notify the court if he finds it.

The matter was adjourned until May 27, 2008.

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