Dates trip up extortion accused in bail bid

2015-06-12 20:20

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Johannesburg - A man arrested for extortion on Friday pleaded with the court to grant him bail, because his company had been tasked with organising paramedic, security, accommodation and ushering services to African Union (AU) delegates attending a Johannesburg summit, which he claimed starts next week. 

This was despite the summit getting underway in Sandton on Friday and expected to end on Monday.

Ghanaian national Henry Kofi Panti made the claim in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.

The AU has disputed his claim, saying no conference was being held next week.

"There is no event in South Africa for the AU that goes further than June 15th," Esther Tankou of the AU told News24.

"All of us who are here for the summit are leaving on Monday," she added.

Earlier on Friday, Panti's lawyer Corne Kriel told the court his client's company was providing the AU with services for an event starting on Monday which would run until the following week. 

"He stands to substantially lose income if he is not personally involved," Kriel said. 

Panti, 59, was in the dock alongside 38-year-old South African Dalton Mononyane.

The pair were allegedly involved in a multi-million-rand extortion scheme targeting Telesure Investment Holdings, a holding company for some of South Africa's largest insurance brands namely Auto & General, Budget, DialDirect and First for Women.

It was alleged they demanded R12.4m from Telesure in exchange for returning stolen personal information about some of its employees.

The operation against the two was led by the Hawks's electronic crime unit (ECU).

The company and the Hawks said in a joint statement: "Despite having robust, state-of-the-art information security systems in place, a rogue third-party contractor fraudulently gained unauthorised access to Telesure Investment Holdings’ payroll system while working on site and stole personal information relating to some of its employees."

An investigation by ECU, Telesure, and PwC Forensics led to the arrests.

In an affidavit submitted during his bail application, Panti denied he tried extorting money from Telesure. 

He claimed a man by the name of Odure and his wife Sibulele asked him to receive money on their behalf into his bank account. 

He claimed the couple informed him the money was being transferred from overseas and the deal was above board. 

He agreed and later that day, received a call from someone asking him to verify his banking details and ID number. 

He provided the caller with the information, who then asked him how they would receive the data from him. 

He told the caller he knew nothing about what they were talking about and cut the call. 

Panti said he later received another call where the person said he would rather give him R250 000 in cash in Sandton. 

He told the court he refused to accept the money in cash and insisted it be deposited into his account so they had proof of payment. 

Panti claimed he was later arrested; relayed the entire incident to the police and took them to Odure's house. 

Odure was not found and was alleged to have since moved from the premises.

In his bail plea, Panti, who has permanent residency in South Africa, submitted he was not a flight risk. 

He claimed he was the son of a Ghanaian chief and had been in the country since 2005. 

He had been married twice since arriving in South Africa and had two children from his marriages. He was currently engaged to another woman. 

Panti claimed all his business interests were in South Africa and he could not afford to abandon them.

However, the judge said he would only deliver his ruling on Panti's bail application on Wednesday.

It was not immediately made clear how Mononyane, who stood in the dock alongside Panti wearing a blue sweater with his ankles shackled, was linked to the scandal. 

He was only recently arrested and his lawyer claimed they had not yet completed an affidavit to submit to the court. 

Mononyane was expected to have his affidavit ready when court resumed on June 17, where he would also possibly apply for bail. 

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  crime

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