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The Special Investigating Unit wins its bid to add companies to its legal challenge to recover money allegedly siphoned from government’s tender with digital vibes.

The Special Investigating Unit wins its bid to add companies to its legal challenge to recover money allegedly siphoned from government’s tender with digital vibes.

Special Investigating Unit
The Special Investigating Unit wins its bid to add companies to its legal challenge to recover money allegedly siphoned from government’s tender with digital vibes.—

The Special Tribunal has ruled in favour of the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU) application to add more companies to its legal bid to recover money which was allegedly siphoned from government’s tender with Digital Vibes.

Judge Lebogang Modiba delivered the judgment on Wednesday.

In March, the SIU was accused of being “overzealous” in its pursuit to recover funds which were allegedly paid to companies linked to former health minister Zweli Mkhize, his relatives, and close associates

The SIU had argued before the Special Tribunal that it should be allowed to recover costs from six companies which had allegedly received payments from Digital Vibes.

The Special Tribunal has ordered that five of the six companies be joined to the SIU’s recovery bid.

The companies are All Out Trading (Pty), Tusokuhle Farming, Cedar Falls Properties, Mateta Projects, and Sirela Trading.

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Cedar Falls Properties had May Mkhize, the ex-minister’s wife, listed as its sole director. Tusokuhle Farming was linked to Dedani Mkhize – the couple’s son.

Mateta Projects was accused of being the main character in the money-laundering enterprise, which received initial payments from Digital Vibes.

Those proceeds were later paid over to Sirela Trading, a company linked to Protus Sokhela – an associate of the Mkhize family. Proceeds from Sirela were then distributed to entities related to the Mkhize family, News24 reported.

During the hearing last month, advocate Barry Roux, representing the SIU, said the companies had to be held liable for benefitting from proceeds initially paid from Digital Vibes’ bank accounts to their bank accounts.

The advocate described the series of payments as a money-laundering scheme intended to benefit the Mkhize family and conceal their liability.

In her judgment, Modiba said whether the repayment by Mateta Projects “absolves the proposed respondents from liability, the payments were made in the ordinary course of business, and/or the proposed respondents are innocent of the flow of funds between NDOH (National Department of Health) and Digital Vibes stand to be determined in the review application once the issues between the parties are fully ventilated”.

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She said the proposed respondents had presented “inconsistent versions” regarding the basis for Mateta Projects’ repayment to the SIU.

Modiba said:

Given that Sirela Trading only received R3 795 000 from Mateta Projects, it does not make business sense why Mr Sokhela advanced to Mateta Projects over R7.7 million, more than Mateta Projects received from Sirela Trading. The purported refund of the rental in respect of [the] lease of Mr Sokhela’s farm and grazing fees, given that Mr Mthethwa has had [the] benefit of the lease for almost two years, and that his cattle have grazed on Mr Sokhela’s farm also does not make business sense.
“The loss to NDOH which the SIU seeks to recover in the review application is R150 million and not limited to the R10.6 million Mateta Projects received from Digital Vibes. Sirela Trading is the source of the funds Mateta Projects repaid to the SIU, the basis of which, prima facie, is devoid of logic and business sense; none of the other proposed respondents have repaid to Mateta Projects the amounts they received from it.”

She said the SIU was entitled to recover money from the companies.

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Modiba’s judgment comes after Parliament’s Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests cleared Zweli Mkhize of allegedly benefitting from the irregular Digital Vibes tender.

On Tuesday, the acting registrar of members’ interests wrote to Mkhize informing him that they had found he had not breached the ethics code by not disclosing benefits he received from Digital Vibes.

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