The 25-year-old man accused of defrauding the UIF Covid-19 relief fund to the tune of over R5.6 million, has been released on bail along with his four co-accused, who are family members.
Tshepang Phohole appeared in the Pretoria Commercial Crimes Court on Monday, alongside his girlfriend, stepfather, sister and his brother in-law.
Phohole is facing multiple charges of fraud, with alternative charges of theft as well as multiple charges of money laundering.
It’s alleged that a labour broking company, CSG Resourcing, submitted an application to the UIF on behalf of 1 400 employees for relief during the lockdown. Phohole, who was a factory worker, was among the intended beneficiaries.
However, it is alleged that the account number of CSG Resourcing was fraudulently changed into the Capitec account of Phohole.
Once the money was deposited into Phohole’s account, he allegedly made several transfers into different bank accounts belonging to his girlfriend and other family members.
According to the charge sheet, once the money was transferred, with the alleged intention of hiding the source of the sum of money, the five accused allegedly went on a spending spree.
Items allegedly purchased included:
- Volkswagen Polo Classic 1.4 for R63 000;
- Volkswagen Polo GTI DSG for R154 900;
- Range Rover Evoque for R310 000;
- Volkswagen Polo TDI for R118 000;
- Volkswagen Nissan Impendulo for R390 000;
- A tombstone and catering for R40 200;
- Building material for R67 277;
- Car wash equipment for R52 000.
During the bail application on Monday, which was not opposed by the State, it was said that Phohole had been laid off from his factory job in March this year following the national lockdown.
His girlfriend Taetso Zulu, a fellow accused, was unemployed and living with Phohole. Zulu and Phohole also have two children together, one of which is just a couple of days old.
Another accused is Phohole’s stepfather, Tsietsi Mojela, a 68-year-old pensioner.
It was further revealed in court that Phohole and Zulu live with his mother and stepfather in a house in Mamelodi West.
Fourth accused Itumeleng Mosoko is Phohole’s sister, who had a job but has since been suspended following the news of the UIF fraud matter. Her husband, Tebogo Mosoko, is the final accused who has a catering company and a car wash.
While the State did not oppose bail for any of the accused, there was an argument about how much it should be set at. The State pointed out the severity of the case as well as the fact that the money was meant for other people, who have since also become victims of the alleged crime.
The defence for the accused argued that a preservation order was granted earlier in June which had lead to the bank accounts of all five being frozen and certain removable assets being confiscated, which had left them in a position of not being able to afford a larger sum for bail.
It was further argued that around 80% to 90% of the UIF money had since been reclaimed through the preservation order.
The court granted the five accused bail of R5 000 each on condition that they do not dispose of removable assets that still needed to be collected or that they interfere with the investigation.
The matter has been postponed to 7 September for further investigations.