Land restitution scam: Hawks dig for more evidence

2012-10-17 15:24

The Hawks are still digging for more evidence to conclude their investigation into Mpumalanga’s biggest land restitution scam.

They have already charged five people for alleged fraud and theft of the Ndwandwe community trust deed, which they allegedly intended to use to access the community’s land in Badplaas for a R2.5 billion investment in a communal farming project.

Ndwandwe community trustee Mangisi Nkosi, and officials of Investment for Agricultural Sustainability in Africa (Ifasa) – Gustav Uys De Waal, Gert Pienaar and Ferdinand Odendaal – appeared in the Nelspruit regional court today.

The fifth suspect, Pieter Visagie, could not attend because of confusion about where the case was going to be heard.

It was held in the Carolina Magistrates’ Court last month and was transferred to Nelspruit.

However, the two courts’ managers are still deciding where the case should stay permanently.

The charge sheet indicates that Visagie and Mangisi allegedly stole documents of the Ndwandwa trust from the Master of the High Court and removed the name of the trust’s founding member, Robert Nkosi, last year.

They and Ifasa then allegedly approached the Mpumalanga rural development and land reform department with the edited trust deed and presented their proposal to invest in the area.

The Master of the High Court revoked the allegedly fraudulent deed last October after Nkosi had complained.

The trust successfully claimed 21 farms in 2003 worth about R51 million.

Prosecutor Patrick Nkuna asked that the case be postponed to February 4 so that police could finish their investigation.

“That’s why we’re requesting a lengthy postponement. The police still have to investigate the case further,” Nkuna said.

The Hawks cracked the scam nearly ten years after a whistleblower, Fred Daniel, exposed the sale of land at inflated prices to the land claims commission. Daniel came across the scam as he was buying land to establish a game reserve.

Visagie features prominently in forensic reports by the rural development and land reform department for allegedly masterminding a scam that resulted in the commission buying farms at inflated prices in 2003 on behalf of the Ndwandwa trust.

Forensic auditors also found irregularities with transactions worth R25.8 million in which Visagie allegedly sold farms he had interests in to the commission at more than double the price.

These properties were transferred to the Ndwandwa trust but Visagie leased them from the trust for small amounts.

In one case, Visagie sub-leased Doornhoek farm to McCain Foods for R2.7 million over three years, while Ndwandwa benefited R6 700 a month. 

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