Thabiso Goba
3 minute read
29 Apr 2022

KZN couple allegedly swindle charity out of millions

Thabiso Goba

A husband and wife duo that allegedly swindled the KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society out of R12 million, evaded police for close to a year.

A husband and wife duo that allegedly swindled the KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society out of R12 million, evaded police for close to a year.

Ruvanya Ramiah and Ayish Rambally are both charged with a combined 432 counts of theft, fraud and money laundering. The pair were arrested on April 14 and have been remanded in custody since. They appeared at the Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Thursday for their official bail application.

In their affidavits submitted to court, they said they were “betrothed” to each other in a traditional ceremony and have two children together.

Inflated salaries

In the charge sheet, it is alleged that between 2012 and 2018, Ramiah — who was employed as the society’s finance officer — misappropriated funds that were not due to her.

She did this by allegedly “paying herself inflated salaries, paying herself more than once”.

Ramiah is also accused of creating ghost employees as well as redirecting funds to Rambally and a company called SR Investments, which they jointly owned.

Colonel Bhekizwe Sibiya, a detective from the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks), is the investigating officer in the case.

Sibiya took the stand on Thursday and told the court that Ramiah was initially arrested by SAPS in January 2019 regarding this matter. However, Sibiya said, Ramiah was released as the case against her was not strong enough.

Shortly after she was released, Sibiya said the case was transferred to the Hawks for further investigations. Following more investigations, Sibiya said in July 2019 he was told by the prosecutor to “trace and arrest the suspects”.

He said he reached out to the attorney who represented Ramiah in January 2019, but was told she had new counsel by the surname of Coleman.

Sibiya said he liaised with Coleman and they set up a date, September 24, for when the couple would hand themselves over for arrest. He said Coleman called him on the day asking for a new date as it “was no longer suitable”. They agreed on November 24 as the new date, but again the couple did not show up.

“At this stage Coleman told me he would be withdrawing as their attorney because it [now] sounded like he was the one misleading me,” said Sibiya.

Sibiya said during this time he, along with an attorney from the Blind and Deaf Society, were failing to track down the couple. Around November 2019, Sibiya said he put out a JP50 on the identity numbers of the couple to border control, airport authorities and other entities. This meant they would be red flagged if they used their identity documents anywhere.

It was not until early this month that Sibiya said he received a tip-off that the couple had moved from Durban and were living in Estcourt.

He said Ramiah was employed as an accounts clerk at a supermarket under the surname of Ramkissoon while Rambally was a sales representative at a shop that sells vehicle spare parts.

Sibiya said they first arrested Rambally, who “co-operated” and took them to where his wife worked.

In their affidavits, the couple said they intend pleading not guilty to the charges. They said they moved to Estcourt to start a new life closer to family after they had failed to find jobs in Durban. The couple said they were not a flight risk as their children were in the province and they had no money or passports.

Sibiya said he opposed the court granting them bail as they proved “difficult” to track down when he was looking for them.