SOUTH AFRICA, Pretoria – While 31% of employers have not received their September Covid-19 special relief grant and only 53% of recipients have been paid in full, the courts once again sent out a strong message that fraud in this regard will not be tolerated.
In the latest bid to clamp down on relief fund fraud, the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, issued an order in favour of the Asset Forfeiture Unit to freeze bank accounts worth R111 million connected to Hammanskraal businessman Thabo Abel Simbini and his business, Impossible Services (Pty) Ltd.
Simbini appeared briefly in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on allegations of bribery in connection with the Department of Employment and Labour’s UIF temporary relief fund.
Sipho Ngwema, spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority, said that in October Impossible Services claimed to have terminated 6 647 employees from their employment.
However, the company had only one employee, Simbini, before making these claims to the UIF.
Based on these abnormalities, it appears that Impossible Services did not have any employees other than Simbini, who is a director.
Impossible Services was paid R111 003 088.73 based on the alleged fraudulent claim.
Subsequent investigations revealed that no people were employed by Impossible Services, and the company was fraudulently using people’s IDs to claim for UIF and relief benefits without their knowledge.
The R111m was therefore paid fraudulently into the company. It was claimed that Simbini and the company possibly committed fraud, theft or money laundering.
Earlier this month the Financial Intelligence Centre issued directives in terms of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act to the bank to “freeze” the accounts or not to proceed with any transactions on the implicated accounts. Ngwema said Simbini was arrested on November 13 by the Hawks during an undercover operation.
He was allegedly caught red-handed bribing an official from the Department of Employment and Labour.
The Hawks investigation into Simbini’s claims meanwhile continues.
The Hawks and the NPA are part of the Fusion Centre which comprises all law enforcement agencies.
The Fusion Centre is a platform for law-enforcement collaboration to detect special Covid-19-funded fraud and recover assets.
“The rapid response by law enforcement agencies under the Fusion Centre regarding these Covid-19 relief cases is commendable. The Assets Forfeiture Unit will continue to move swiftly to ensure that we take profit out of this corruption.
“This is money destined for people who have been hit hard by the pandemic, yet there are unscrupulous people preying on them,” Ouma Rabaji-Rasethaba, head of the unit said.
The courts began in June, to show its displeasure with people and companies fraudulently claiming from this special fund when it granted an order to preserve millions allegedly paid out.
CSG Resourcing, a labour broking company with numerous clients, applied for Covid-19 relief from the UIF for nearly R5.7m in respect of its clients.
The relief funds were to be paid to more than 200 employees of various companies by CSG Resourcing and it was approved by the UIF.
The money was to be paid into a nominated bank account of CSG Resourcing, but was paid into an account of a different bank of a labour broking company employee.
The payment was discovered by CSG Resourcing after the relief funding was approved by the UIF, but did not reflect on its account.
The DA at the time said this may only be the “tip of the iceberg” and urged the AFU to widen its probe involving the UIF temporary employer relief scheme.