KZN businessman in court for defrauding EC Education department

School desks. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)
School desks. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

Port Elizabeth – A Durban-based businessman made a brief appearance in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court on Friday for allegedly defrauding the Eastern Cape department of Education of R24-million.

The 43-year old Vishal Seebran, is accused of submitting fraudulent letters of recommendation and tax clearance certificates in 2009 as part of a tender application to the department, which resulted in him being awarded tenders to the value of R24-million.  

Also listed in the indictment, are the three companies — Paper Active (Pty) Ltd, Mega Papers (Pty) Ltd, and African Paper Products (Pty) Ltd, in which Seebran holds a directorship.

The charge sheet states that "during the period from 19 October 2009 to 21 December 2009 and at or near East London in the Regional Division of the Eastern Cape the Accused did wrongfully, falsely and with the intent to defraud, give out and pretend to the Department of Education that letters of recommendation in the name of Tevo, Office Elements, Mtuba Book Sellers and Stationers and G&T Office Supplies were genuine and issued by the said businesses in the normal course of business."

No stranger to controversy

Seebran is also accused of forgery for allegedly "unlawfully, falsely and with the intent to defraud and to the prejudice or potential prejudice of the Department of Education and/or SARS forged an instrument in writing to wit: a Tax Clearance Certificate."

Seebran is no stranger to controversy involving the Department of Education. In 2014 he, and two co-accused Sibongile Mtshixa and Peter Mkhanda, were acquitted of charges of trying to bribe former education boss Modidima Mannya to award tenders to Seebran’s company.

It was alleged at the time that Mannya had been offered R600 000 for every R10 million worth of tenders issued to Mega Papers. The case was dismissed after the magistrate at the East London Regional Court ruled that the evidence from wire-tap surveillance could not be admitted.

in January this year, City Press reported that a contract worth more than R400 million had been awarded to his company, African Papers Products, in December 2016.

African Paper Products was among five companies contracted by the Eastern Cape Department of Education to distribute stationery for the 2017 academic year.

At the time Seebran was quoted as saying that the company delivered stationery in the Libode, Maluti and Lusikisiki districts. 

The Anti-Corruption Task Team of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) started investigating the R24 million tender fraud case in February 2013. 

The case was postponed to the 19th of October, with Seebran being released on warning.

*This story has been updated to reflect that the accused appeared before a magistrate at the East London Regional Court in 2014, and not before a judge. 

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