Asbestos Seven”, granted bail, properties and bank accounts worth R300-million seized

AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER

THREE senior civil servants, a senior politician and three businessmen, who appeared in court on fraud and corruption charges related to state capture, have been released on bail ranging between R50 000 and R500 000.

The “Asbestos Seven” gained their freedom but now have their properties, worth millions, seized and their bank accounts frozen. 

The seven suspects are:

  • Nthimotse Mokhesi (61). Head of the Free State Department of Human Settlements. Bail: R100 000.
  • John Matlakala (42). Director of Supply Chain Management in the Free State Department of Human Settlements. Bail: R50 000.
  • Edwin Sodi (47). CEO of Blackhead Consulting. Bail: R500 000.
  • Sello Radebe (56). Businessman. Bail: R100 000
  • Abel Manyeki (38). Businessman. Bail: R50 000.
  • Thabane Zulu (53). Former director-general of the Free State Department of Human Settlements. Bail R100 000.
  • Sarah “Olly” Mlamleli. (63). Former MEC for Human Settlements in the Free State and ex-Mayor of Mangaung. Bail:  R100 000.

The “Asbestos Seven” were told by the presiding officer that he was satisfied that the state has a prima facie case against each of them. The seven face charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering, theft, attempted theft and contravention of the Asbestos Act.

The seven were charged along with the companies they own. The companies are Blackhead Consulting, Diamond Hill Trading, 605 Consulting Solutions, Mastertrade 232 and Ori Group.

Their appearance follows a dramatic three days during which the seven were arrested in raids conducted by the Hawks. They are expected back in court on November 11.

The court also granted the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) a freezing order worth R300-million, which includes a R225-million tender given to Sodi.

In terms of the court order, the AFU seized property, houses, luxurious cars, bank and family trust accounts, household goods and shareholdings. 

“The accused or anyone else, besides authorised by the court, who is aware of the order, is prohibited from dealing with the property. Notwithstanding the freezing of their fixed properties, such property shall remain in custody of the seven accused and they will have full use of it, pay rates, taxes and maintain it, pending successful confiscation application,.

“This is subsequent to an investigation that was initiated by the Special Investigating Unit which referred the matter under Proclamation R39 of 2019 to the NPA and the Hawks. A criminal investigation by the Free State members of the Hawks, the Free State Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and other NPA units such as the AFU” the NPA said in a statement. 

In a major breakthrough this week, the Hawks, South Africa’s elite investigations agency, arrested the seven, amongst them Sodi, a politically connected businessman who has admitted to donating millions to the ANC and giving huge amounts of money to members of the governing party.

appear in Bloemfontein on Friday.  They are expected to face at least 60 charges.

Sodi told the Zondo Commission, investigating fraud, corruption and capture of the state by individuals, civil servants and politicians, that he had made a R6.5-million donation to the ANC and made several other payments to senior ANC officials, including a cabinet minister and a deputy minister.

Sodi admitted that while his company received the tender, it did not have the expertise or accreditation to handle hazardous material and conduct an asbestos audit. His company was awarded the R255-million contract, then subcontracted Mastertrade for R51-million to do the work. It then pocketed R200 million for doing nothing.

In 2017, Sodi’s partner Ignatius Mpambani was gunned down in Sandton, Johannesburg.