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By Marizka Coetzer


Thabo Bester’s ‘non-existence’ shows exactly why SA isn’t trusted internationally

Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi confirmed the search for Bester on the National Population Registry and admitted Bester wasn’t registered as a South African citizen.

The chaotic debacle around rearrested murderer and rapist Thabo Bester – the man who does not exist on any government database – shows exactly why the international community doesn’t trust this country when it comes to cracking down on money laundering, say experts.

Identification of people is at the core of any anti-money laundering structure and SA has failed that test dismally in the Bester case. Concern about SA’s lax controls was the reason the country was greylisted this year by the global Financial Action Task Force (FATF), according to experts.

Yesterday, Bester made his first appearance in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court and was remanded in custody.

Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi confirmed the search for Bester on the National Population Registry and admitted Bester wasn’t registered as a South African citizen.

ALSO READ: Thabo Bester: ‘Dr Nandipha said she was being held against her will’

Motsoaledi said when the news broke about Bester and his lover, Dr Nandipha Magudumana, fleeing the country, they searched three databases to see whether the couple had skipped the borders legally or illegally.

“We only found two Thabo Besters on the National Population Registry. One a young man of 19 years old and a 45 year old who presented himself to police,” he said.

No trace of Bester

Motsoaledi said there was no trace of Bester on the other systems and the department had also tried searching for Bester under alias names.

“None of them was the man who escaped prison,” he said.

Motsoaledi said the department had visited the woman claiming to be Bester’s mother and confirmed Bester was born on 13 June, 1986, in the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital but was never registered by his mother because he disappeared.

ALSO READ: Thabo Bester is so scared for his life, he hasn’t eaten since re-arrest

The last record of Bester was his attendance at Danie Theron Primary School in the south of Johannesburg. He left school in 2002 after finishing Grade 5. Bester’s existence could not be established, except for the death certificate produced last year when he faked his death.

“Bester never registered with any home affairs, ever,” Motsoaledi said. “We could only find him at correctional services when he was in jail. He simply does not exist in our system.”

Motsoaledi said Bester’s death certificate would be corrected but he could not confirm if Bester would get an identity document because it was up to Bester to apply.

Ways to live off the grid

Criminologist Professor Jaco Barkhuizen said there were many ways to live off the grid.

“If you didn’t have an ID, you could always have a friend open an account on your behalf or use a fake ID,” he said.

People hid money via a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin.

ALSO READ: Thabo Bester and Dr Nandipha Magudumana back in SA

Professor Jacob Mofokeng from the department of safety and security management at the Tshwane University of Technology said Bester could not be living large by just robbing his victims, as highlighted in the media.

“The concept of brown envelopes referring to the movement of cash has been making rounds and is public knowledge. It is prevalent in South Africa.

“Bester is portrayed as someone intelligent. The fact that he could manage to convince Dr Nandipha to leave all she acquired for years, her prestige, family life and security into a life of crime, points to the fact that above matters of the heart, there was something more compelling,” he said.

Mofokeng said the business they wanted to establish, could have been used as a front to conceal what has been a source of his livelihood.

“The [grey]listing of South Africa by the FATF highlighted the lack of proper and effective control over organised crime. Many organised crime networks are operating and Bester may have links with some of these networks,” he said.

RELATED: Thabo was born in SA, but not registered with Home Affairs – Motsoaledi 

Mofokeng said it was possible Bester had skills and knowledge of how to take advantage of the justice system and benefit from its vulnerabilities, making a fortune out of illegal activities.

Lax rules

Economist Dawie Roodt said South Africa was a country with lax rules and it failed to enforce those lax rules. One rule to avoid being greylisted was to have measures in place to avoid money laundering.

“Being greylisted isn’t black and white; it’s an impression of the country. The impression the world has of SA is that we aren’t reliable and the Bester case has just reaffirmed it again,” he said.

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