Swaziland
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SOME ASIAN BUSINESSMEN IN RECONSTRUCTION FUND FRAUD

MANZINI - Some businessmen of Asian origin are accused of defrauding government and their fellow countrymen millions of Emalangeni through the Reconstruction Fund claims.

As a result, members of the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) are investigating a number of cases linked to the claims. It is alleged that some of the Asian businessmen, in particular those from Bangladesh, who are accused of defrauding their countrymen, some of whom were business partners, purportedly altered documents like police reports and invoices in the Reconstruction Fund claim files and escalated the amount to be claimed.

Shareholders

On the other hand, others are said to have allegedly put emaSwati as shareholders in the companies so that they could get more money. This is because if a business that was affected during the civil unrest was owned by a foreign person, it would get 40 per cent of the claimed damages, but if it was owned by a liSwati, it would be given 60 per cent of the total claim.
According to a source close to the matter, a number of Asian businesspeople have approached the police in various police stations and headquarters (Fraud Department) to report their fellow countrymen for allegedly defrauding them and government, through the Reconstruction Fund. In fact, he said the assumption was that the alleged fraudsters were working as a syndicate.  

Looted

One of the complainants, *Javi, claimed that his supermarket at Ngwane Park was looted during the June/July 2021 civil unrest and he suffered losses amounting to E204 000. He said after recording a statement with the police, he submitted all required documents and pictures to the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) and later on, he filed a claim with the Reconstruction Fund, through EswatiniBank. Afterwards, Javi alleged that on October 5, 2022, he went to his home country and while there, he learnt that some businesses were receiving money from the Reconstruction Fund and he eventually returned to the country on January 18, 2023.

Upon his return, he alleged that he approached EswatiniBank to enquire about his claim of E204 000 and he was purportedly told that it was successfully processed and paid. After expressing his shock since he allegedly did not receive the payment, he requested the bank to retrieve his file so it could be checked, which it did. “When I looked into the file, I found that the documents I filed, which included a police report which stipulated that I suffered a loss of about E204 000 and invoices, were replaced. The claim, which was under my company name, was escalated to E1.2 million,” he alleged. Also, he alleged that when inspecting the claim further, he found that it (claim) was under two names, an Asian businessman and a liSwati.

According to his analysis, he said he suspected that someone faked the documents; being the police report and invoices. He alleged that according to the documents, a sum of about E526 000 was paid, which was approximately 60 per cent of the claim of E1.2 million. He claimed that he was given part of the money, but it did not amount to the E204 000, which he had claimed, which meant that his fellow countryman and liSwati defrauded him and government. He said this was because the claim was escalated from E204 000 to E1.2 million and on top of that, a liSwati was used to claim 60 per cent of the money, instead of 40 per cent. He said he reported the matter at the Fraud Department at the Police Headquarters in Mbabane.
Again, another complainant, *Yakim, alleged that he was in a partnership with a fellow countryman and operated a supermarket at Sithobelweni, which was burnt to the ground on June 29, 2021. He said they suffered a loss of E2.5 million. He alleged that after some time, he fell sick and went back home in Bangladesh. While he was in his home country, he claimed that he was informed that the Reconstruction Fund was processing claims and his partner purportedly told him that he had submitted all the required documents and they would be paid E248 940.  He said the money was later paid to him by his partner.

Curiosity

However, he alleged that out of curiosity, he went to EswatiniBank to enquire about their claim. He claimed that according to the information he got from the file, over E1.2 million was paid out for their supermarket at Sithobelweni. “This means that my partner crooked the business about a million of Emalangeni,” Yakim claimed. He alleged that when he asked his partner about the money, he purportedly told him not to tell anyone about it and promised to sort him out. However, he said he informed some elders within their community living in Eswatini and they called a meeting to try to resolve the matter, but their efforts were in vain as no agreement was reached. Again, the businessman alleged that according to the documents he found at EswatiniBank, the claim was paid into three bank accounts owned by Asians, including his partners.

Demanding

“When we tried to pursue the matter by demanding the money, they threatened us, thus I decided to open a case with the police, Fraud Department,” the businessman alleged. The source said there were a number of Asian businessmen who were defrauded in a similar fashion and it is believed that the police investigation would unearth the fraudulent activities. Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Phindile Vilakati confirmed the matter. She said there were some fraud cases which were reported to them and were under investigation.  Meanwhile, the EswatiniBank referred all queries to the Reconstruction Fund committee. Thulisile Gamedze from the Reconstruction Fund advised the complainants to also file formal complaints with EswatiniBank, so that they could also look into the matter. However, he highlighted that generally, they also worked hand-in-hand with the police.
NB: *Not real names