Hawks arrests senior government officials and businessmen in the R255m Free State asbestos corruption case

PRETORIA – The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), also known as the Hawks, arrested six suspects during a simultaneous operation in the Free State, Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng on allegations of fraud and corruption in relation to the 2014 Free State Asbestos Project.
Among those arrested are three senior government officials, three businessmen and five companies. The accused face 60 charges which include corruption, fraud, and money laundering in contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (POCA) as well as Contravention of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
The arrests emanate from a joint investigation by the Free State Serious Corruption Investigation, Special Investigating Unit (SIU), and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). This followed a referral from the SIU under Proclamation R39 of 2019, which led to the subsequent criminal investigation by the Hawks who worked closely with the NPA and its various units.
The allegations relate to a contract that was awarded through a procurement process that was done in a fraudulent and corrupt manner. In addition, certain public officials received gratification from the contracted company and/or an individual amounting to several counts of corruption.
The contract was meant to identify and remove asbestos roofs in the Free State province and failed to conduct due diligence process before participating in the contract.
It is alleged that the Provincial Department created an impression that they participated in a contract concluded by the Gauteng Human Settlement Department while the services were not the same as specified in the existing contract and also the price was higher in contravention of Treasury regulations.
During the period that the department incurred unauthorised, irregular or fruitless and wasteful expenditure worth over R255 million.
One of the suspects from KZN is still unaccounted for in this case, a warrant of arrest in his name has already been secured. The suspects are expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

Source: South African Police Service

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