Woman admits swindle

Aruna Seebran is accused of extorting R155?000 out of a Pietermaritzburg businessman.
Aruna Seebran is accused of extorting R155?000 out of a Pietermaritzburg businessman.
Supplied

Pietermaritzburg - A woman admitted on Wednesday that she extorted R155 000 from her ­married lover Deonarain Maharaj of Pietermaritzburg to keep their affair secret, but ended up not getting a cent of the money.

In fact, Aruna Seebran (41), of Durban, claimed that she too had been the victim of extortion.

She said that in a bid to keep their affair quiet, she herself had parted with a Mazda vehicle worth R180 000 and R150 000 cash before she was persuaded to extort money from Maharaj, a prominent Pietermaritzburg businessman.

Seebran was yesterday given a wholly suspended three-year jail sentence for her role in extorting money from Maharaj, in terms of a plea bargain with the state.

Among the factors taken into account when arriving at the sentence was that Seebran is widowed, is the sole caregiver of her two children, and that the offences occurred as a result of her becoming addicted to gambling.

“She is now extremely remorseful for her actions. For the sake of her children and herself she has barred herself from entering Suncoast casino,” the court was told.

The length of a potential trial and the fact that “intense personal details” of both Maharaj and Seebran would have been revealed during the course of the case, would have been detrimental to both families, she said further.

At the time of the offence Seebran was self-employed selling perfume and earned around R10 000 per month.

The court also had regard to the seriousness and prevalence of the crime, that the extortion was well-planned and that Seebran suffers from a “debilitating, life-threatening disease for which she requires constant medication and monitoring”.

Seebran stood calmly in the witness box as she confirmed the contents of her statement which was read to regional magistrate Mishy Singh on her behalf by her attorney Viren Singh.

In it she stated that she and Maharaj had a sexual relationship.

Her friends — Duel Matthew, Leslie Naidoo and a person named only as Sudhir (who has since died) — became aware of the affair. They persuaded her to become part of a scheme to extort money from Maharaj, she said.

Using Seebran’s cellphone, Matthew had sent a message to the businessman in around August 2013 telling him that if he wanted to keep his affair with Seebran a secret, he had to deposit R155 000 into a bank account designated by Matthew.

Seebran said she was initially not aware who the holder of the bank account was, but later found out that it belonged to a “female person”.

According to her, Maharaj paid R155 000 into the allocated bank account and the money was “immediately withdrawn by Matthew and his associates”.

Seebran said she herself did not receive any of the money that was paid by Maharaj, but admitted that she had acted with her associates to extort the money.

Seebran said before this incident Matthew, Naidoo and Sudhir had extorted money from her as well.

She had parted with a Mazda vehicle worth R180 000 and a cash sum of R150 000 to keep the affair secret.

The Witness established that police are currently looking for the other alleged participants in the extortion scheme, but that so far no one else has been arrested.

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