The National Prosecuting Authority’s Asset Forfeiture Unit has frozen the assets and bank accounts of politically connected businessman Edwin Sodi and six others involved in the R255 million Free State Asbestos saga.
Sunday World reported at the weekend that the Zondo commission investigators believed Sodi paid senior ANC members and government officials a total of R34 million from 2013 to 2019 as his companies scored more than R2 billion in government tenders.
On Tuesday, Sodi confirmed that amongst the recipients of his largesse are minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi and Deputy Minister of State Security Zizi Kodwa.
The bulk of Sodi’s payments went to key government officials in the Gauteng government. One of the main beneficiaries of the windfall was Colin Pitso, who is currently the chief director for the beneficiary management in the department. Pitso scored a total of R6,5m, made in 13 payments between March 2014 and December 2015, in what is called “consultation fees” and a loan. At the time, Pitso was chief of staff in the office of the then premier Nomvula Mokonyane.
Sodi’s Blackhead Consulting was appointed in March 2014.
Former acting head of department of human settlements Bongani More was paid R7,5m in 9 instalments labelled “loans” between July 2013 and March 2018, according to the investigators.
More was acting head of department between 2013 and 2014, the same time Sodi was contracted by the department.
On Wednesday, a day after dropping the bombshell on how he was the benefactor of high-profile politicians, government officials and the ANC, Sodi was arrested.
The High Court in Bloemfontein today granted the AFU an asset freezing order worth R300 million.
The seized property includes houses, luxurious cars, bank and family trust accounts, household goods, shareholding.
“The accused or anyone else, besides persons authorised by the court, who is aware of the order, is prohibited from dealing with the property. Notwithstanding the freezing of their fixed properties, such property shall remain in custody of the seven accused and they will have full use of it, pay rates and taxes and maintain the it pending subsequent successful confiscation application,” NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said in a statement.
“They are prohibited from making any changes, sell or transfer ownership of the property without the consent of the curator and in consultation with the AFU. They must, however, at any stage make the property available for inspection to the curator or a representative of the AFU,” he added.
Sodi, whose address is captured as Brynston in Johannesburg, was released on R500 000 bail.
His six co-accused were all granted R100 000 bail each. They include Nthimotse Mokhesi, head of department, Free State human settlements; Mahlomola John Matlakala, director supply chain management at the human settlement department; Sello Joseph Radebe, a businessman from Fourways, Johannesburg and Abel Kgotso Manyeki, a businessman from Clubview, Pretoria.
Completing the list is Thabane Zulu, the former director-general of national department of human settlements and Olly Mlamleli, the former MEC of human settlements in Free State and a former mayor of Mangaung.
The state alleges that fraud to the value of R255 million was committed in the appointment of Blackhead Consultants in 2014 as service provider to the department of human settlements in the Free State for the “assessment and removal of asbestos roofs and/or housing”.
The seven appeared along five companies Blackhead Consulting, Diamond Hill Trading 71 (Pty) Ltd, 605 Consulting Solutions (Pty) Ltd, Mastertrade 232 (Pty) Ltd, and Ori Group (Pty) Ltd.
They face charges including fraud, theft, attempted theft, corruption in contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004, money laundering in contravention of section 4 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121 of 1998 (POCA) as well as the contravention of various Asbestos Regulations, promulgated in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993.
This followed an investigation by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) which referred the matter to the NPA and the Hawks.