Gupta associates, ex-government official arrested for plundering funds

Two Gupta family associates and a former government official were on Wednesday arrested and appeared at the Randburg magistrate’s court for allegedly laundering more than R100-million meant for the rehabilitation of the Optimum Coal Mine and Koornfontein Mine in 2016.

Former Tegeta Exploration and Resources director Ronica Ragavan, a former trustee of Optimum Mine Pushpaveni Govender, and former deputy director-general in the Department of Mineral Resources Joel Raphela were nabbed and charged with fraud, forgery, uttering, perjury, and money-laundering.

The National Prosecuting Authority’s investigating directorate’s spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka said in a statement: “In 2015, Tegeta took control of Optimum Mine rehabilitation trust and the Koornfontein rehabilitation trust. In terms of the sale agreement, the rehabilitation funds had to be converted into cash by 15 February 2016.

“On 23 May 2016, R7.5-million was transferred from the Optimum Mine rehabilitation trust account at Standard Bank to Optimum Coal Mine, and the amount was used as part of the payment of R26.4-million to Klipbank Mining, which is not in accordance with the requirements of the trust, regardless of what the funds were used for.

“Ragavan and Govender obtained R100-million from the Koorfontein trust account in June 2016 to act as surety for a loan in favour of Tegeta for the purchase of Optimum Coal Mine.”

According to Seboka, the Department of Mineral Resources gave consent for the disposal of the 100% controlling interest held by Optimum Coal Holdings in Optimum Mine and Koornfontein Mine to Tetega for mining and prospecting rights.

“According to the MPRDA [Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act], the minister of mineral resources is expected to keep the rehabilitation funds to deal with rehabilitation and remediation of adverse environmental impact of prospecting, exploration and mining operations when a mine is sold off or closes,” she said.

Seboka added that the holder of the rights is the one liable for ensuring that the financial provision is equal to the amount of the actual costs of implementing the plans to rehabilitate the mine and environment for 10 years after the closure of the mine.

“In this case, the trustees so cited in the case and company directors, are accused of orchestrating a scheme where they requested the funds held in the two rehab funds to be transferred into other current company accounts and used for purposes in breach of the Department of Mineral Resources’ rules.”

Implicated Optimum Coal Mine, Koornfontein Mine and Tegeta Exploration and Resources, as well as the three accused are expected back in court on June 22. The accused are out on R2 000 bail each.

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