‘Land fraudsters’ charged

2011-02-09 00:00

LADYSMITH businessman Roshen Sewpersad (39) has been charged with fraud relating to land claims.

He was granted R50 000 bail by the Ladysmith Magistrate’s Court on the day of his arrest last Thursday.

His co-accused are officials of the Rural Development and Land Reform Department, Promise Makhanya (41), Bhekumuzi Masoka (45) and Sbusiso Chapi (38). They were each granted R20 000 bail.

The four were charged with tricking labour tenants into signing forms without knowing what they were for.

This follows last year’s move by the Asset Forfeiture Unit to put Sewpersad’s six farms under curatorship following allegations that he had colluded with his co-accused to gain the farms fraudulently.

The Witness was told that Sewpersdad arrived at the Ladysmith Magistrate’s Court in a wheelchair on Thursday.

His legal representative, Viren Naidoo, said his client had back problems and had to be rushed to hospital.

Sewpersad has been under investigation for his alleged involvement in fraudulently acquiring six farms.

An affidavit by the crime investigating unit states that the Elands­jagt Billygreen Ranches were bought for labour tenants by the provincial government in early 2001 for more than R36 million, The Witness reported last year.

Between 1999 and 2000 the tenants allegedly filed an application for ownership with the Rural Development and Land Reform Department under the government’s land restitution and redistribution policy.

The farms, situated in the Elandslaagte area near Ladysmith, were consolidated and a legal entity, Abrina 6822, was set up to take transfer. The labour tenant claimants were excluded.

In March 2010 the department opened a criminal docket with the commercial crimes unit.

The investigations revealed that no trust or association was formed on behalf of the beneficiaries and they were not aware they owned the farms.

Sewpersad’s name never appeared in the original agreement of purchase and sale as a beneficiary.

The affidavit states that it appeared the compilation of the list of beneficiaries and the transfer of the farms were fraudulent.

Naidoo, who also represents Makhanya and Masoka, would not comment at the time as he had not received police dockets to study the charges against his clients.

Acting regional head for the Asset Forfeiture Unit, Knorx Molelle, has said the KZN government has lost land to the value of R800 million to fraudsters who claim to represent the tenants.

The case has been adjourned to May 3.

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