Suspects arrested for allegedly defrauding Sasol of R279m

Four people, including two companies, appeared briefly in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on charges of racketeering, corruption and fraud that allegedly bagged them R279 million from Sasol using invalid bank guarantees.

The bank guarantees were allegedly obtained by bribing a now former FNB branch manager who wasn’t authorised to provide such guarantees.

According to police spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, Pragasen Reddy, 40; Siviwe Mafanya, 55; Sibusiso Khumalo, 48; and Douglas Rikhotso, 41; were arrested by the Hawks’ Serious Commercial Crime Investigation Unit on Wednesday. They were taken directly to court, where they were each granted R15,000 bail.

The accused were also ordered to hand over their passports.

“It is alleged that between January and June 2011, a former Hyde Park FNB manager issued bank guarantees in favour of Lavela Petroleum and Imvuselelo Petroleum and Gas to increase their credit facility to buy fuel from Sasol Oil. The bank manager at the time did not have the authority to issue or approve bank guarantees on behalf of the bank,” Mulaudzi said.

Two other people could not appear in court, one due to Covid-19 quarantine restrictions and the other resides in Cape Town. Efforts are already under way to secure the suspect’s court appearance in Johannesburg.

Mulaudzi said: “The suspect who is currently under quarantine allegedly formed a joint venture between Lavela Petroleum, Imvuselelo Petroleum and Gas and his own company.

“He did not have any trading deal with Sasol. He allegedly facilitated the fabrication of false bank guarantees by Reddy for the three entities and made payments in the form of kickbacks to the bank manager.”

Sasol suffered a R279-million loss as FNB discovered that the guarantees were falsified and refused to honour them.

The accused are facing three charges of racketeering, eight charges of fraud and two of corruption. They are expected to appear in the same court on 1 October.

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