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Judgement expected in forfeiture of assets apparently bought with stolen IPTS funds

By Afikile Lugunya - Jul 31, 2018
Judgement expected in forfeiture of assets apparently bought with stolen IPTS funds

Judgement is expected in the Port Elizabeth High Court in a case where a local church and a businesswoman had their assets seized by authorities after it emerged that they were apparently bought with monies stolen from the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality's Integrated Public Transport System (IPTS).

The National Prosecution Authority (NPA) in April acted on an order by the High Court, which granted its Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU), the permission to attach assets, amid claims the church was a front used to hide monies that were syphoned off the ITPS project.

The Perculiar People’s Church, which is situated at Uitenhage, is led by a Nigerian Pastor, Apostle Bassey Victor. Still, several assets that were seized were bought using the name of the church.

These included a white Toyota Quantum, a white Jeep Cherokee, a silver BMW  and a variety of other items purchased for Pastor Bassey and the church.

When the AFU went to seize the assets, things didn’t go as planned as the Pastor tried to hide from the AFU by claiming he was at his home, which later turned out to be a lie.

Undaunted, the AFU team went to the church where it met a woman, who identified herself only as the wife of the pastor. She told the team her husband was still at home praying.

The AFU then proceeded to seize the identified assets. NPA’s spokesperson, Tsepo Ndwalaza, later informed the media, who had tag along for the operation, that the Pastor had sneaked out through a back door to avoid the media.

“There is also more of the properties that is going to be taken, the curator is discussing that with the pastor of the church. This emanates from the reservations order that was granted by the court for us to come and take these assets.

“The information we had was that he was busy somewhere, praying,” Ndwalaza said.

Although the pastor was no show, Ndwalaza said that he was relieved that the items were successfully attached; "This is a victory for the NPA.”

From the date of the asset forfeiture, the pastor had 14 days to claim the assets as his.

Unfortunately, the 14 days ellapsed without his claim. Ndwalaza said that the assets would be auctioned off so that the State can recover the taxpayers' money.

He said that the AFU moved against the church following unlawful cash transfers to it amounting to about R6 million.

“A R13 million payment from the IPTS funds, managed by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, was made to Zeranza CC [owned by Uitenhage businesswoman, Andrea Wessels] and were utilised to acquire the property for Pastor Bassey and the Church.

“At the time, Wessels and Nadia Gerwel, a former Assistant Director in the Finance Department in the Municipality, were members of the church, managing its finances and Wessels confessed ‘of taking from the wicked and giving to the righteous’.

"Wessels joined the church during the second half of 2011,” Ndwalaza said.

Apparently, monies from the IPTS were syphoned off using different churches in the Uitenhage area as fronts.

In four phases, the State has sought to recover over R2 billion that was apparently siohoned off the Metro's IPTS project.

Ndwalaza added that in 2017, Wessel’s Uitenhage house worth R800 000, allegedly purchased using IPTS funds, was preserved and judgment for its forfeiture has been reserved.

“Wessels’ assets estimated to be about R11.9 million, which include those of Mr Mkasa and Wessels’ son and daughter were restrained in the second leg pending conviction in the criminal case.

“Her son, Rukaard has paid back R289 030 of the IPTS funds he received from his mother. Early this year, in the third leg, Dankovista’s immovable property, which had been on the market for R2.9 million, was preserved. Rukaard is the sole Director of Dankovista."

The preservation reveals how IPTS funds were spent: Wessels paid Pastor Bassey R28 000 per month as an alleged Graphic Designer for Zeranza from March 2012.

"On 25 February and 2 March 2013, Pastor Bassey received from her two amounts totalling R50 000. On 17 August 2013, Wessels transferred R588 000 for the “purchase of the Toyota Quantum, which has the Church’s branding on its sides. From 27 February and 6 March 2014, Wessels paid R1 400 000 for the purchase of the Vanes house," Ndwalaza said.

"Wessels deposited R50 000 each for the acquisition of the Jeep Cherokee and the BMW. R500 000 was further deposited as a gift for the guest Pastor.

“On 25 May 2014, Wessles handed Pastor Bassey keys for a BMW 730D worth R1 148 000, by 29 May 2015 this BMW was registered in the name of Dankovista. From 23 September to 9 October 2015, Wessels transferred R1 000 000 because the ‘Lord told her to do so’ for Pastor Bassey to make use of it in any way he wanted and for the Church."

He said the seizure was made possible by the cooperation of law enforcement and the banking sector.

“It is through the hard work of the law enforcement agencies (i.e. the Anti-Corruption Task Team – EC and the banks that made it possible for the Order to be obtained. As the AFU (in the NPA), we are very impressed with the coordinated effort in which this matter has been handled and it will show that crime does not pay,” Ndwalaza said.