Battle to get back funds

2020-02-14 15:03
Gavel (iStock)

Gavel (iStock)

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The KZN Blind and Deaf Society is embroiled in legal action to try and recover about R700 000 from the pension fund of a woman who allegedly stole the money.

The case came before the Pietermaritzburg high court on Thursday and was adjourned to next month.

The woman, Marashni Cattigan, who died four days after she was suspended from the society, belonged to the Old Mutual Superfund Provident Fund.

Amarvetha Sewkuran, chairperson of the society, said in court papers that she suspects that Cattigan committed suicide as no one was found responsible for her death.

Cattigan was employed in 2017 as an acting manager at the society’s regional facility in Pietermaritzburg. In light of her position, she was permitted to effect payments from the regional committee’s bank account.

In December 2018, there were no funds available to pay the salaries of the staff at the facility. The then chairperson of the society, Zak Jacoob, sent a letter to staff informing them that their services were to be terminated on January 31, 2019, said Sewkuran.

The society’s regional committee requested that the decision be stayed as attempts would be made to increase fund­raising efforts and raise the money to pay the salaries.

Upon further investigations by the society, it was found that an unauthorised transfer of R65 000 was effected by Cattigan from the society’s bank account into her own account. “Soon after the transfer of these funds was made, we were informed by the deceased, she went on a holiday to India,” she said.

Cattigan was suspended with immediate effect and without pay, and on February 4 she confessed that she had stolen the money and there is a recording of this. “Further investigations revealed that a total of R620 503 had been stolen by the deceased,” said Sewkuran.

She said the pension payout is R474 424 and she believes that there is not enough money in Cattigan’s estate to satisfy the claim of R629 503.

If the pension is paid out, the society will have no way of recovering its losses from her estate.

The society, she added, relies mainly on donations from the public for the running of the Pietermaritzburg branch. It was only able to keep its doors open to the “poor, blind and deaf” people it serves from loans that were made by the Durban branch of the society.

This, said Sewkuran, has impacted on the Durban branch and services provided by the society. The whole of KZN will be compromised if the pension proceeds are paid out and the society is not able to recover the stolen money from the pension proceeds.

In March last year The Witness reported that the director of the society, Shamilla Surjoo, was fired after it emerged that millions of rands belonging to the organisation was embezzled on her watch.

Yacoob said alarm bells were rung last January when R100 000 went missing from the account. Over a six-year period, an estimated R12 million was stolen. “Upon close inspection, we discovered that there was an online banking facility that was being used for illegal transactions,” Yacoob said at the time.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  kzn blind and deaf society
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