Employment and Labour welcomes latest convictions for Covid-19 TERS fraud

The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), an entity of the Department of Employment and Labour, has welcomed the conviction of a couple who defrauded it of R600 000 worth of Covid-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (Covid-19 TERS) funds.

The Johannesburg Specialised Commercial Crimes Court recently convicted Refilwe Kgaje (40) and Isaac Phiri (45) for defrauding the UIF. Kgaje was sentenced to three years as well as another 15 years imprisonment for fraud, while his co-accused, Phiri, was sentenced to 15 years for the same offence.

During the Covid-19 lockdowns of between 2020 and 2021, the couple, through their company Pusoloso Engineering Services, applied for Covid-19 relief funds for 95 ghost employees, resulting in the UIF paying out an amount of R600 000 to the bank account of Phiri. Subsequent investigations by the UIF and law enforcement agencies led to the arrests of both Kgaje and Phiri.

UIF Commissioner, Teboho Maruping, has welcomed the latest sentences and heaped praise on investigators from the UIF, HAWKS, and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for their ongoing work to bring COVID-19 TERS fraudsters to book.

“We will continue to round up and send fraudsters that stole from the working class to prison. I am pleased with the latest sentences and will insist on even higher sentences so that our message of no tolerance can be crystal clear. The day is coming when those who wittingly stole from distressed workers, will all answer to the authorities. Working together with our partners, we will continue to pursue COVID-19 fraud cases until every single one has been dealt with,” said Maruping.

To date, at least 12 people have been convicted and sentenced to direct imprisonment or suspended sentences for fraud, theft, and money laundering related to Covid-19 TERS. The most prominent case remains the matter Bookkeeper, Lindelani Gumede, who was sentenced to 20 years direct imprisonment for R11 million worth of Covid-19 TERS fraud. 

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