Weekend Post (South Africa)
Hawks swoop in on Bay attorneys
THE net is closing in on all those believed to be linked to how hundreds of millions of rands of state funds meant for Nelson Mandela Bay’s bus system were looted, with The Hawks swooping in on a Port Elizabeth law firm this week.
The elite crime-busting unit raided the offices of Le Roux Inc Attorneys, in Cape Road, on Thursday as it intensifies its probe into one of the metro’s biggest scandals.
Le Roux Inc benefited to the tune of millions of rands from a number of contracts linked to the metro’s failed bus system, the Integrated Public Transport System (IPTS).
It provided legal consulting work for the city and charged a 10% fee for processing invoices billed to the city for IPTS work.
The Hawks’ Eastern Cape spokeswoman, Captain Anelisa Feni, confirmed that the firm’s offices were searched on Thursday as part of the ongoing investigation into the IPTS.
Feni declined to elaborate on what was removed from the offices or what they had been looking for.
“No further information will be revealed at this stage,” Feni said.
Le Roux Inc’s legal representative, Lunen Meyer of Roelofse Meyer Inc, confirmed the raid.
“We can confirm that there were representatives of the specialised investigation unit at my client’s offices yesterday [Thursday],” Meyer said.
“All the documents and information they required was provided voluntarily by my client.
“I can confirm that it is related to the IPTS.”
He declined to comment further.
News of the raid comes four months after the specialised investigation unit arrested former Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU) president Cheeky Watson, senior metro finance official Nadia Gerwel and three others on charges of fraud and corruption.
Their arrests were linked to the investigation into money laundering and corruption relating to IPTS funds. The case is before the courts. The Hawks’ investigation of the IPTS
stems from the probe initiated by former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, who ordered that the national Treasury get to the bottom of how funds for the beleaguered system were squandered.
About R2.5-billion has been spent on the IPTS since its inception and it has yet to be launched, while the buses remain in storage.
It is understood that Le Roux Inc offered to cooperate with the Treasury and Hawks investigations, even providing an explosive affidavit detailing what it knows about what is believed to have been a sophisticated network of officials, politicians and businesses involved in defrauding the municipality.
Meyer refused to answer any questions about the affidavit, saying he could not comment.
As news of Treasury’s investigation of the IPTS gained momentum in late 2015, Le Roux Inc offered to pay back R2-million to the municipality – the money it made from processing invoices of Jarami Projects, the company owned by businessman Fareed Fakir.
Fakir benefited from a number of IPTS contracts, none of which went to tender. He is also embroiled in a legal battle with the municipality for a marketing contract involving his other company, Erastyle.
Le Roux Inc processed payments on behalf of Jarami Projects totalling more than R20-million.
At the time, Le Roux Inc said it did not want to be the cause of any controversy for the municipality, or be the subject of any controversy, and that it did not want to be associated with Jarami Projects in any way.
Meyer said in 2015: “Hence the tender of repayment, which has been made in good faith because our client feels it is the correct thing to do in the circumstances, but without admission of any wrongdoing on the part of our client.”
Bay city manager Johann Mettler said yesterday the municipality had rejected Le Roux Inc’s offer to pay back the R2-million.
“We reported the matter to the police as per the [The Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act].
“[We also] submitted a complaint to the law society,” Mettler said.
A question sent to the Cape Law Society yesterday remained unanswered at the time of going to print.
We can confirm there were representatives of the investigation unit at my client’s offices . . .