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Prison for Durban couple who defrauded KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society of R14m

The Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes Court sentenced two fraudsters to jail terms.

The Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes Court sentenced two fraudsters to jail terms.

Google© Streetview, Google Maps, taken 2022

  • A Durban couple has been handed prison sentences for defrauding the KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society of more than R14 million.
  • The couple pleaded guilty to more than 400 counts of fraud that were committed over a period of seven years.
  • One of them worked as a finance officer at the organisation and cooked its books from March 2012 to February 2019.

A Durban couple who defrauded the KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society of more than R14 million has been handed lengthy prison sentences.

The Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes Court sentenced Ruvanya Ramiah, 31, to 15 years in prison and Ayush Rambally, 32, to 10 years in prison. Two years of both sentences were wholly suspended for a period of five years.

They were sentenced after pleading guilty to fraud and theft in June 2022.

Ramiah pleaded guilty to 354 counts of fraud, amounting to more than R12.6 million, while Rambally pleaded guilty to 79 counts of theft, amounting to approximately R1.7 million.

Ramiah was employed as a finance officer at the KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society from March 2012 to February 2019. Her duties included salary and general payments, which gave her access to the organisation’s bank accounts.

READ | Sting operation nabs suspect who conned woman out of R200 000 with stained notes scam

“She said she committed fraud by paying herself inflated salaries twice and sometimes more times in the same month. She also created false payments to suppliers and fabricated evidence to support those payments. The money went into her bank account and that of her husband,” said National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Natasha Kara.

In his plea, Rambally said he took the money knowing he was not entitled to it, as he was neither an employee nor a creditor of the organisation.

“He admitted to being aware that his actions were unlawful and that he intended to permanently deprive the society of the funds, which he would use for his and his wife’s purposes,” Kara said.

In aggravation of sentence, senior prosecutor advocate Andre Carlitz led the evidence of Veetha Sewkuran, the president of the KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society.

“Sewkuran said that once news of the fraud had gotten out, funders and companies withdrew their funding and association with the society,” Kara said.

Sewkuran said the lack of funds resulted in the retrenchment of 15 staff members who then took the society to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, thus causing the organisation more financial problems.

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“Sewkuran mentioned that Ramiah was in a position of trust, and she betrayed that trust. The fraud committed has impacted on the reputation of the Blind and Deaf Society, with the organisation needing to prove itself as it is still under scrutiny from donors and the public.

“She said they may have to close its doors should they not recover from their loss,” Kara added.

In handing down sentence, the court found that the couple did not show remorse and pleaded guilty due to the overwhelming evidence against them, said Kara.

“The court concluded that their motive was greed and not need as they were receiving an income and Ramiah held a full-time job,” she added.

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