R33,7 mln fraud: couple out on bail
State claims duo manipulated chemical prices to win contract
A LADYSMITH business couple, Yogenthren and Pranitha Naidoo, facing a R33,7 million fraud charge, parted with R80 000 cash yesterday to secure their freedom on bail.
The state has alleged in its provisional charge sheet that the couple defrauded Uthukela district municipality by manipulating the tender process to secure tenders for the supply of chemicals required to purify drinking water in the municipality.
The couple, who are parents of three young children, handed themselves over to members of the commercial crimes unit attached to the Hawks yesterday morning in response to a summons.
Investigating officer Brad Swift said in an affidavit he did not fear that the couple would abscond, nor interfere with the police investigation, which is almost complete.
He, however, asked that bail be set at about R50 000 in light of the huge amount involved.
The couple were accompanied to court by their Pietermaritzburg attorney, Sergie Brimiah, whose suggestion that bail be set at R50 000 for Yogenthren and R30 000 for Pranitha Naidoo, was accepted by the court.
The couple appeared uneasy about the media attention and continually looked over their shoulders as they sat awaiting their court appearance. They also did their best to avoid Witness photographer Shan Pillay.
Both said in affidavits handed to magistrate F. Moola they intend pleading not guilty to the charge against them.
The state alleges in its provisional charge sheet that Yogenthren Naidoo owns a business, Ace Motor Spares, and that his wife is the sole member of Squarehill Investments 1CC, which is trading as Mapchem.
It is alleged that as part of the process to provide purified drinking water to the local community, Uthukela obtains chemicals from service providers who are required to tender for the contract to supply them.
Between 2006 and 2011, Mapchem won tenders totalling R33 786 122.
The state alleges that in order to swing the tender process in their favour the accused had made a number of misrepresentations to Uthukela, including quoting prices that were much lower than the fair market price for the chemicals.
After securing the tender they allegedly increased the prices to far higher than the market norm by fraudulently claiming that their own supplier, Sudchemy, had increased their prices neccessitating an increase in the agreed contract price.
The case was postponed to March 27 next year.
Yogenthren Naidoo at the Ladysmith Magistrate’s Court yesterday.