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Forensic expert breathes new life into Mbombela stadium fraud case

2019-03-12 21:48

A forensic expert, who was hired to probe tender corruption in the R1.2 billion Mbombela Fifa World Cup soccer stadium in Mpumalanga, is ready and willing to help revive the case.

Johan Erasmus told City Press last week that towards the end of last year, he provided all the missing documents in the Mbombela docket to both the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Without revealing much, Erasmus said most of the documents comprised his findings on how corrupt activities were planned and carried out in the municipality.

The Mbombela case has been in limbo for nearly six years since the Hawks arrested six suspects – including Kaizer Chiefs football club manager Bobby Motaung, his business partners at Lefika Emerging Equity and former City of Mbombela manager Jacob Dladla.

Erasmus did the investigation work on behalf of Ngobe-Nkosi Attorneys, which the municipality hired to probe Dladla’s role in the stadium tenders in 2008.

“I have provided all the information I gathered during the investigation to the Hawks and the NPA, and I am ready to testify,” Erasmus said.

The former military intelligence officer said that Ngobe-Nkosi Attorneys hired him because most auditing firms were reluctant to be involved.

“People were afraid of me and I was not afraid of them,” Erasmus said.

Corruption in the stadium case has often been linked to the assassination of City of Mbombela speaker, Jimmy Mohlala, in 2009. No one has been arrested for the murder.

City Press reported in October last year that information that was originally in the docket was missing.

This threatened to delay the revival of the case, which was struck off the roll at Nelspruit’s regional court in 2013.

Sources close to the investigation said this was revealed when the Hawks and the NPA met in June to discuss how the case could be revived.

For now, all the people who were charged are free – because of the NPA’s uncertainty about whether it wanted the case to continue being heard in the regional court or to be transferred to the Pretoria High Court.

The case was withdrawn because of this indecisiveness when the prosecutor, Advocate Patrick Nkuna, found out that NPA managers sent two conflicting letters to the magistrate. One supported a transfer of the case, while the other did not.

At the centre of the case is Motaung, his business partner, Herbert Theledi, and Lefika’s former chief executive officer, Chris Grip.

The trio were charged with fraud, valued at R143 million, for allegedly using a false tax certificate when Lefika submitted a bid for a tender to design the stadium.

They also allegedly forged a Mbombela council letter with a fake signature of former Mbombela municipal manager Sgananda Siboza to obtain a R1 million overdraft from a bank.

Motaung, Theledi and Grip also faced another set of charges – theft, fraud and contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act – that related to stadium tenders valued at R920 million.

They were charged alongside Dladla, Ehlanzeni District technical director Tebogo Kubeka and Grip’s lawyer, Michael Ramos.

Last year, the sources said that the missing information pertained to the tenders valued at R920 million.

This matter involved Dladla, and Erasmus investigated it. Details of the Ngobe-Nkosi Attorneys report were used in a disciplinary tribunal to charge and dismiss Dladla in 2009.

Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the “case was still very much alive”.

“We cannot go into details,” he said on Saturday.

However, Mpumalanga NPA spokesperson Monica Nyuswa said the NPA had not received any information from the police relating to the case.

“We initially decided not to prosecute because the police did not comply with our instructions to investigate further. We can only arrive at a decision on whether to prosecute or not once the investigation has been concluded and the case docket is placed before the NPA for a decision,” Nyuswa said.

At the time the case was withdrawn, Nkuna had informed the court that the investigation was complete and the NPA was ready for trial.

It is unclear who in the Hawks is investigating the case after Warrant Officer Mashudu Mashamba was removed from the case in 2015.

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May 19 2019