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NPA granted order to confiscate Yunus Essop’s properties in DSW fraud case

By Khethukuthula Xulu

The order is in respect of two immovable properties situated in Zimbali; namely Ebuhleni and Mahogany Drive.

ethekwini vehicle
A Durban Solid Waste vehicle. Photo: Supplied

The National Prosecuting Authority’s  (NPA) Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) in KwaZulu-Natal has obtained a forfeiture order for approximately R22 million against Western Breeze Trading 434 (Pty) Ltd and Yunus Essop. 

The order, which was granted in terms of Section 50 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121 of 1998 (POCA), is in respect of two immovable properties situated in Zimbali; namely Ebuhleni and Mahogany Drive.

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According to the NPA, the preservation order for this matter (which was granted in November 2021) was granted on the basis that there were reasonable grounds to believe that the properties were proceeds of unlawful activities, as they were acquired with the proceeds from the alleged fraud, corruption, racketeering and money laundering committed by accused persons in the Durban Solid Waste (DSW) contract matter, namely Craig Ponnan, Sinthamone Ponnan, El Shaddai Group CC (El Shaddai) and Umvuyo Holdings CC (Umvuyo).

The criminal trial, which also involves ex-mayor Zandile Gumede and others, returns to court on October 2, 2023, for further evidence in the state’s case.

“An amount of R52,4 million was paid by eThekwini Municipality to El Shaddai (where Prabagaran Pariah is a sole member) between February 2018 to July 2019,” said NPA regional spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson-Kara. El Shaddai then paid R48,7 million to a company named Umvuyo.”

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“The director of Umvuyo is Sinthamone Ponnan, who is the mother of Craig Ponnan. Craig had control over the El Shaddai bank account,  and was also a signatory on the bank account of Umvuyo.  He participated in the affairs of El Shaddai and Umvuyo.

“Several payments of over R6 million were made by Umvuyo towards the purchase of the property at Ebuhleni. The Ebuhleni property was then transferred to Western Breeze,” said NPA Ramkisson-Kara.

The vacant land at 9 Mahogany Drive was purchased by Yunus Essop and registered in the name of the Western Breeze in 2014. Umvuyo paid R16,1 million for the construction and design of this house, said Ramkisson-Kara.

In granting the forfeiture order, the NPA said the court ordered that the Ebuhleni property is forfeited to the state, and the proceeds from the sale thereof must be transferred into the Criminal Assets Recovery Account (CARA). Regarding the property on Mahogany Drive, Western Breeze was ordered to pay an amount of R16,1 million into the CARA within the next six months. Should this not be done, the court ordered that the appointed curator bonis sell the property via an auction, said Ramkisson-Kara.

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Senior State Advocate Beverley Mothilall from the AFU in KZN was successful in obtaining the respective orders.

“This case demonstrates how the Asset Forfeiture Unit and the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit work in collaboration to ensure that we take the profit out of crime. This is an example of the NPA’s fight against serious corruption and fraud, and in its efforts to curb money laundering,” said Ramkisson-Kara.