Lottery corruption: SIU to intensify probe as MPs hear director scored R6.3m Rolls-Royce

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The SIU is investigating large-scale corruption at the National Lotteries Commission.
The SIU is investigating large-scale corruption at the National Lotteries Commission.
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  • The Special Investigating Unit has expanded its probe into corrupt grant payments at the National Lotteries Commission.
  • The unit will now spread its probe over three parts to cater for all the allegations of wrongdoing it has to investigate. 
  • A former lottery board member stands accused of spending R6.3 million that should have gone to a good cause on a Rolls-Royce.
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The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is broadening the scope of its probe into corruption and fraud at the National Lotteries Commission (NLC), where senior leaders stand accused of siphoning off hundreds of millions of rands meant to go to good causes. 

In a briefing to Parliament's oversight committee on trade and industry on Tuesday, SIU investigators gave scores of examples of how top executives stole funds meant to help build schools, orphanages and drug rehabilitation centres. 

The executives used the funds - which were often deposited into the bank accounts of trusts, family members of or conveyancing attorneys - to splurge on expensive property, furniture and cars. In one example, an unnamed former board member used R6.3 million in funds to buy a Rolls-Royce in August 2016.

While MPs praised the SIU's probe, the unit shared few names with the committee as only a handful of cases have been referred to prosecutors. 

Broadening its scope 

The SIU said that it now intends to break its probe up into three phases. 

The first phase, which deals with R279 million, has been completed. President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to receive this report at the end of October. 

The second phase, which deals with R246 million in fraudulent payments, started earlier this year and will continue until March. 

READ | How National Lotteries Commission ignored several warnings about corruption

The third and final phase will also be the largest, with SIU investigators probing fraud of R905 million. It will commence on 1 April next year, once phase 2 has wrapped up. 

On Tuesday, MPs heard that the fraud was carried out by two former board members and a handful of senior officials, all of whom have left the agency. These officials conspired with dozens of corrupt nonprofit organisations to commit fraud that could amount to over R1.4 billion in total. 

The sole official named by the SIU was ex-NCL board chair Alfred Nevhutanda. In June, the SIU obtained a preservation order freezing an R27 million luxury property linked to him. 

Kingpins

The SIU said a common modus operandi was for millions of rands in grants to be paid to "hijacked NPOs" that had been taken over by so-called "kingpins". 

The hijacked organisations often received grants via the Lottery's "proactive funding" model, which lets its leadership make grants without receiving applications. All proactive funding has been stopped.   

The SIU said that funds were often paid from corrupt nonprofit groups to conveyancing attorneys, who would buy property on behalf of trusts linked to NCL leadership. The unit said it had identified a number of "hijacking kingpins" but did not share any names.  

The NCL's new chairperson, Professor Barney Pityana, told the committee that its new board was reviewing policies to strengthen internal governance. 

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