The syndicate operates inter-provincially and the operation is the biggest one to date, Hawks spokesman Major Robert Netshiunda said. Picture: David Ritchie
Durban – A KwaZulu-Natal woman is believed to be the mastermind of the country’s biggest social grant fraud syndicate, with most of the illegal grant withdrawals seemingly made in the province.
Police have also raided a house on KZN’s South Coast where official equipment and software were being used to produce fraudulent social grant cards.
Neliswa Msimango, 46, and Msali Ngcobo, 30, both from KZN, were among 15 arrested by the Hawks, police crime intelligence, South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) fraud management and compliance department and a private auditing and accounting firm.
Sassa is a national entity run by the national Department of Social Development.
Msimango was arrested near Cape Town International Airport on Friday and was expected to apply for bail in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court in the Western Cape in two weeks’ time.
Among the 15 who were arrested last week and appeared in court, are eight Sassa officials and two Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) employees.
According to Hawks spokesman, Major Robert Netshiunda, another CPS employee handed himself over to police on Tuesday.
Netshiunda said this syndicate operated inter-provincially and had allegedly defrauded Sassa of more than R2.3 million involving more than 200 social grants.
“This syndicate forms part of a broader ongoing criminal investigation involving more than 4 776 fraudulent social grants, amounting to more than R34.7m,” he said.
Netshiunda said their investigations showed that Msimango was allegedly instrumental in introducing the different syndicate members to each other.
Their investigation covered Gauteng, KZN, Eastern Cape and the Western Cape. He said more than 500 cases of identity fraud related to fraudulent social grants had been uncovered.
While Msimango and the others were being arrested on Friday, a joint task team in KZN had swooped on a house in Scottburgh that had been operating as an illegal Sassa office. This is where Ngcobo was arrested.
He appeared in the Scottburgh Magistrate’s Court and was expected to make a formal bail application on Monday.
Netshiunda said fraudulent identity documents were appa-rently being manufactured at the house.
He also said they were equipped with everything needed to produce a social grant card, including printers, electronic storage devices, bank …