Ters fraud: Pretoria businessman’s bank accounts of R111m frozen

Police officers pointed to the handcuffs of offenders and talked about the offense of corruption charges | Photo for illustration: iStock

The Asset Forfeiture Unit says Thabo Simbini claimed Ters and UIF benefits for 6 647 employees, while the company had only one employee – Simbini himself.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has issued an order in favour of the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) 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 COVID-19 Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (Ters), the NPA said in a statement.

“In October 2020, Impossible Services  claimed to have terminated 6 647 employees from their employment. However, the company had only one employee, Simbini, prior to the declarations made 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 into it’s bank account based on the fraudulent claim.

“Subsequent investigations revealed that the employees were not employed by Impossible Services and the company was fraudulently using people’s identity documents to claim for normal UIF and the Ters benefit without their knowledge,” the statement said.

“The R111 million was therefore paid fraudulently to the company and Simbini and the company possibly committed fraud, theft and/or money laundering.

“On 13 November 2020, the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) 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.

“On Friday 13 November, Simbini was arrested by members of the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation (DPCI), popularly know as the Hawks, during an undercover operation when the accused was caught red-handed bribing an official from the Department of Employment and Labour.

“The Hawks’ investigation into Simbini’s claims continues. 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 prevent, detect early, intelligence-led investigations, prosecute and recover assets relating to corruption or related activities in respect of Covid-19 relief to counter the detrimental economic and social impact of the pandemic,” the statement said.

“The rapid response by law enforcement agencies under the Fusion Centre with regards to these Covid 19 relief cases is commendable. The AFU 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,” said AFU Head Ouma Rabaji-Rasethaba.

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