Confusion over presidency’s claim of R12bn recovered from proceeds of corruption

2020-02-24 21:30

The presidency has moved to clarify what looked to be a misleading claim in the run-up to the state of the nation address (Sona) that the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) had recovered R12 billion from the proceeds of corruption.

The claim was repeated by ANC deputy chief whip Doris Dlakude last week on day one of the two-day debate on the president’s address.

Dlakude told the joint sitting that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the AFU had recovered the money.

“Corruption weakens the government’s ability to function optimally in pursuit of objectives and aspirations of the national democratic revolution,” she said.

Addressing the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Dlakude said that in the Sona last year, the president promised the nation “to vigorously embark on a deliberate path to strengthen our law enforcement agencies’ capabilities to fight the scourge of corruption and crime”.

“Post-Sona 2019 we have seen the NPA and AFU recovering R12 billion from the proceeds of crime. We have also seen the conviction rate increasing in cases of organised crime.”

In response to a question from City Press about the source of that figure, Dlakude’s office said it came from the NPA’s annual report.

But the NPA’s Bulelwa Makeke told City Press that it was “not true and the figure was incorrect”.

Among some banners posted on social media boasting of the government’s achievements ahead of this year’s Sona was one that read: “We are committed to eradicating corruption. The NPA and AFU have now recovered R12 billion.”

In a response to City Press, presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko said the banner did not necessarily refer to the past 12 months.

“The figures used in the banner I posted were compiled by our communications team and sourced from the NPA and several media reports,” she said, attaching a link to a newspaper report last year, with the heading, NPA recovers nearly R12 billion.

“At no point did any of our communications infer that this was over the period since 2019, unlike other banners which clearly stipulated the reporting progress since last year’s Sona.”

The NPA gave a breakdown on the AFU’s action on corruption in the past three financial years, which included some of the major cases contributing the largest sums of monies recovered.

In 2016/17, R73 million was recovered, in 2017/18 R665 000 was recovered.

The last financial year accounted for the biggest share of the pie, raking in R2.85 billion in recoveries.

The 2019/20 year up until January so far had bought in R1.4 million.

Among some of the high-profile cases that were mentioned as ongoing by the NPA, included:

Robert Abbu and others

The AFU obtained a restraint for R51 million on October 4 last year against persons allegedly involved in fraud and corruption at the eThekwini Municipality.

Officials and private entities were allegedly involved in unlawfully awarding a tender.

The restraint was put in place, pending the outcome of the criminal matter.

Siyenza matter

Municipal officials allegedly colluded with a company in a R406 million tender to erect toilets in the Amathole District Municipality in the Eastern Cape.

A restraint was obtained on December 2 last year for R81 million. The restraint is in place pending the finalisation of the criminal prosecution.

Regiments Capital

The Investigating Directorate used asset forfeiture processes to obtain a restraint in the Regiments Capital matter on November 18 last year.

This involved the alleged misappropriation of monies from the Transnet Pension Fund.

The value of the restraint of the Capitec Shares, held by different parties, was estimated at R1.1 billion.

On January 30 this year it was established that the shares were worth R1.53 billion. The matter is ongoing.

Makeke emphasised the “three main events”, in the forfeiture process.

The first involved securing or “freezing” assets, the socond the confiscation/forfeiture phase and the final phase of recovery, which is “a collective indicator for all monies and/or assets returned to victims and monies paid into the Criminal Assets Recovery Account”.

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cyril ramaphosa
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March 29 2020