Three people, one of them being a pastor, have been found guilty of credit card fraud in which Absa Bank suffered a loss of R1 million.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said the trio were convicted in the Eastern Cape High Court on various charges.
The accused are 30-year-old Pakistani national, Muhammad Afzal Yaseen, 46-year-old pastor, Khaya Honeman Nocanda, and former Absa manager of the Middelburg branch, Mandisa Mirriam Ndletyana, 33.
NPA provincial spokesperson, Luxolo Tyali said the three accused were part of an initial seven-member syndicate that was initially indicted on 255 counts.
“This involved an elaborate scheme involving the fraudulent acquisition of credit cards from the Middelburg branch of Absa Bank in the period between August 2019 to December 2019,” explained Tyali.
In court this week, the NPA said Yaseen was convicted of participating in the affairs of an enterprise, through a pattern of racketeering activity, 17 counts of trafficking in persons, 49 counts of fraud and 14 counts of theft.
Nocanda was found guilty of managing the operations of an enterprise in contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, as well as participating in the affairs of the enterprise through a pattern of racketeering, eight counts of fraud, four theft charges, two counts of money laundering and four of acquisition, possession or use of proceeds of unlawful activities.
Ndletyana was found guilty of participating in the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering and three counts of fraud.
Tyali said before the commencement of the trial, one of the accused died and a further two Pakistani nationals, who were out on bail, absconded “presumably back to their country of origin”.
“Prosecution also had to be stopped against one former bank employee due to the stroke she suffered which prevented her from continuing with her defence.”
In explaining the case, Tyali said Yaseen and his accomplices were part of an enterprise whose objective was to defraud Absa Bank by securing credit cards on a false and fraudulent basis in the names of third parties whom they trafficked from the Beaufort West in the Western Cape to Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape.
“The more than 27 victims were transported under pretences of there being employment for them in Graaff-Reinet, ostensibly at a business owned by another Pakistani national,” Tyali said.
“The victims were misled into believing that they needed to open bank accounts at the Middelburg branch of Absa Bank into which their future salary payments would be made.
“They were sent to Beyers Naude Municipality offices where they were incited to obtain false proof of residence documents.”
Tyali said the victims were given false salary advice slips and then taken to Middelburg Absa Bank to apply for credit cards.
“Upon favourable outcomes of the said credit applications, limits of which ranged between R10,000 and R35,000 per person were granted,” Tyali said.
“Yaseen and members of the enterprise would take control of the cards and would proceed to empty the relevant loan accounts, by way of incremental cash withdrawals.
“The victims would be compensated with small amounts and transported back to Beaufort West, still jobless.”
Nocanda, who managed the Middelburg leg of the enterprise, deceived members of his church into believing that he was able to assist them in improving their socio-economic circumstances.
“With the assistance of Ndletyana and the other bank official, he used the same false documentation as Yaseen to secure credit cards from the same bank branch.”
Tyali said once the credit cards were approved, the pastor took control of them.
“The victims were offered a choice of any item in the store, up to the value of R5,000 per person,” Tyali said.
“Nocanda would then pay for these items with the proceeds of the fraudulent activity, thus laundering the money through the business of the enterprise. The members of the enterprise would share the remaining spoils among themselves.”
According to the NPA, the syndicate was exposed after a Pakistani national alerted the Absa Fraud Hotline.
“This person further risked his life by even testifying in court on behalf of the State.”
Sentencing is expected in January.
It is further alleged that during the initial stages of the trial, Nocanda, while still out on bail, allegedly attempted to have the investigating officer as well as several witnesses murdered by approaching a traditional healer and enlisting hitmen to commit the murder.
“The plan failed and his bail was withdrawn. His case relating to the attempted murder has been remanded for trial to commence in 2024.”