Bail for Absa engineer who stole over R100m

By Lwandile Bhengu for News24

The Absa engineer and his wife charged with stealing more than R100-million from the bank have been granted bail of R50 000 each.

Dressed more modestly than when they first appeared, Xolela Masebeni and Athembile Mpani made their third appearance in the Palm Ridge Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Wednesday.

Masebani, a specialist engineer who worked in Sandton and earned R52 000 per month, is accused of stealing R103-million from the bank and allegedly transferring the money into six different bank accounts over four months between September and December 2021.

Mpani, who is also the mother of Masebani’s three children, is alleged to have benefitted from the money. The couple face charges of theft, fraud and contravening the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

In bail judgment, Magistrate Phillip Venter said that although there was no doubt that there was a reasonably strong case to be built against the two, the State had not proven that it was in the interest of justice to deny them bail.

During their bail application on Monday, investigating officer, Captain Oscar Molahlehile Mopeli, told the court how the couple had allegedly spent over R200 000 on a shopping spree at luxury stores in Sandton. They are also said to have purchased seven cars with cash over a short period of time, as well as two properties in Khayelitsha.

In his bail affidavit, Masebani told the court that he owned three cars, while Mpani, in her affidavit, said that she owned three cars. The couple intend denying the charges against them.

Mopeli testified that the majority of the money was transferred into Masebani’s and Mpani’s accounts, while the rest was transferred to people known to Masebani.

Some of the accounts have been frozen.

Third suspect arrested

Arguing against bail, prosecutor Sharon Masedi said that, because Masebani was an IT specialist, the State was concerned that he would conceal evidence vital to their case. She also said that the couple had not been co-operative in assisting the State in finding the cars allegedly bought through the proceeds of crime.

Venter questioned Masedi on the fact that no person facing a criminal charge was obliged to give the State information that might incriminate them, and that he could not compel anyone to do that.

He added that the State had not presented anything to substantiate the claim that Masebani, in particular, would try and conceal evidence.

As part of their bail conditions, they must report to their nearest police station twice a week, they must inform police when they leave for the Eastern Cape, they must not apply for any travel documents, and must reside at the same address they gave in their bail application. They must also not dispose of any assets that they mentioned in their affidavits.

In addition, Masebani is not allowed to set foot in the Absa branch where he worked, contact its employees, or access any of its information.

Meanwhile, a third person, who allegedly received R74-million of the money, has been arrested in connection with the case.

Gershom Matomane was arrested in Cape Town on Thursday and appeared in court on the same day.

Matomane is expected to appear again in Palm Ridge Court soon, while Masebani and Mpani will be back in court on 14 March.

 

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