The SA Police Service is investigating staff at First National Bank (FNB) and a Richards Bay law firm for alleged fraud committed during the registering a home loan.
This comes after FNB approved a R3.2 million home loan for a property in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, based on alleged forged signatures, illegally obtained identity documents and bank statements of people who claim to have known nothing about the bond application.
A police officer, who didn’t want to be named, told City Press last week that the police were about to finish their probe, after which the docket would be presented to prosecutors for a decision.
The alleged suspects include FNB employees and the attorney, who handled the transfer of the property and who is based in Richards Bay.
The name of the attorney is known to City Press but withheld pending finalisation of the investigation.
“We are almost done. We are just waiting for records from a bank,” the officer said.
One of the parties alleged his signature had been forged and his identify documents illegally obtained.
Advocate Thembinkosi Edwin Gumbi opened a criminal case regarding the matter in 2011 at the Johannesburg Central Police Station.
The investigation has centred on how, in 2005, FNB approved the bond to a company called Mantrac, allegedly using the names, forged signatures, illegally obtained ID books and bank statements of individuals who were not directors of the company, said the police officer.
Mantrac was a business set up to invest in accommodation, including in guesthouses.
“We are investigating how, in February 2005, Mantrac passed Gumbi, Bonginkosi Bekizenzo Biyela and Muziwakhe Mathews Majola off as the company’s directors and used their details and particulars to get a bond approved when they were not the company’s directors.
“Eventually, they did become directors of the company. But that happened on June 18 2005. And that was after the bond had already been registered. It was registered on May 31 2005,” the officer said.
HOW THE ALLEGED FRAUD UNFOLDED
Gumbi, who is leading the charge to have those responsible at FNB and the law firm held to account, said everything about Mantrac’s bond application was flawed and fraudulent.
The law firm was appointed by FNB to attend to the transfer of the property from the owner to Mantrac.
He shared documents with City Press showing that on March 7 2005 Mantrac’s five directors, including himself, Biyela and Majola, approved a resolution to grant Janine Patricia Winton Cardy the power of attorney to conclude the bond with FNB on behalf of Mantrac.
FNB required the resolution to be signed before approving the bond.
At the time, Cardy, who has since died, was Mantrac’s chairperson.
“How on earth did we grant Cardy the power of attorney because myself, Biyela and Majola were not directors of Mantrac at the time?”
Records from the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission show that Gumbi, Biyela and Majola became directors on June 18 2005. He said they became directors of Mantrac after they had been approached by Cardy who sold them a 30% stake, for R1.6 million, in the company.
“The plan was to use the R1.6 million to convert her house into a guesthouse.
“She approached us because she needed black partners,” Gumbi said.
“We gave her the R1.6 million and we became partners in Mantrac. But the entire thing collapsed when we discovered that the R3.2 million bond – which Cardy had applied for – was to buy the same house, which we were converting into a guesthouse. She didn’t own it.”
The two-page resolution, which FNB required, was signed by six people on the first page.
It had apparently been commissioned by a commissioner of oaths, despite the fact that none of the five directors had signed next to their names on the last page.
Gumbi said: “The meeting [at which the resolution was drawn up] never took place. This thing was forged.”
According to the Financial Intelligence Act (Fica), all of Mantrac’s directors should have visited the transferring attorney in his office for him to obtain copies of their ID books, proof of address and bank statements.
Documents show that the attorney did the Fica verification on May 16 and May 17 2005.
However, Gumbi said all their documents were not obtained legally.
He said he met the attorney for the first time only in 2009.
“Look at the agreement of sale, our signatures do not appear anywhere there. It was signed by Cardy on her own. An incredible amount of fraud was perpetrated by FNB and Duvenage,” Gumbi said.
The attorney hit back at Gumbi, saying his allegations were “wild, unfounded and untrue”.
“As such, they don’t warrant a comment. This matter is more than 10 years old and Gumbi has reported us to every professional body to which he could possibly report us. And he has been in and out of court without success.”
In 2007 FNB took Gumbi, Biyela, Majola and Cardy to court after they had failed to pay the bond’s monthly premiums.
In 2014 the bank withdrew the civil case and paid all parties’ legal bills.
This was after Gumbi had solicited the service of Mike Irving, a professional document examiner, to look at all the documents, which had been submitted to FNB as part of the bond application.
Irving apparently found that a significant number of signatures purporting to be those of Gumbi, Biyela and Majola were forgeries.
Praven Subbramoney, FNB Private Bank lending CEO, said the bank could confirm that it had received a complaint regarding the matter.
But he said the matter was thoroughly investigated and FNB was satisfied that it met all of its legal obligations.
“The customer was advised to open a criminal case regarding the alleged conduct. The bank will comply with any police investigation,” Subbramoney said.