Two former senior EP Rugby officials were arrested and appeared in court on charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) of South Africa has confirmed that ex-Eastern Province Rugby Union deputy president Bantwini Matika (51) and former vice-president Eldridge Februarie (49), as well as a third suspect, John Scheepers (42), who worked as the union’s club affairs manager, have appeared in court.
Two suspects, Johnny Oerson (51) and businesswoman Xoliswa Mbengu (48), were also arrested by the Hawks and appeared alongside Matika, Februarie and Scheepers in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court.
In a statement released by the NPA, the alleged crimes were explained in detail as well as the charges brought against the accused.
‘It is alleged that the crimes worth R450,000 happened in December 2019.
‘A local organising committee was established to administer grants received from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), with February appointed as chairman of the LOC and Matika and Scheepers as members.
‘All claims for payments in respect of the project were submitted to the financial manager for verification. The financial manager, after verifying the claims, would complete and submit electronic funds transfers (EFTs) requisitions to either Matika or Scheepers for approval. They would be finally submitted to the union’s president for authorisation to release payments.
‘It is alleged that the officials acted as a syndicate to defraud the union. On 12 December 2019, a false invoice of R283,000, for businesses named Local Lawncare and Landscaping – an entity purported to be based in Cradock – was submitted to the union. The invoice was for the hiring of sports fields.
‘It is alleged that the banking details on the invoice actually belonged to Oerson who lived in the same neighbourhood as Februarie in Loerie. Apparently, the two men were acquintances.
‘Oerson allegedly had no relationship with either Local Lawncare or the union. It is alleged that the business address in Cradock was false.
‘The alleged fraud and corruption activities didn’t end there. Mbengu operated a catering business, Noxie General Trading, which provided ongoing catering services to the union. On the same day, 12 December 2019, a R174,060 invoice from the company was submitted to the union for catering services which were purportedly delivered by Noxie. It is alleged that these services were never actually rendered.
‘The two invoices were allegedly furnished by Scheepers for the financial manager with the instruction to process them and make payments from the NLDTF.
‘It is alleged that the EFT requisitions were approved by Scheepers and Matika signed the EFT release form. However, the union’s president prevented these payments.
‘In November 2019, Mbulelo Gidane became the chairperson of finance at the union. It is alleged that in February 2020, Matika and Februarie attempted to convince him to assist in the authorisation and payment of the two invoices. It is further alleged that Februarie went a step further and offered Gidane a bribe of R100,000.’
The NPA confirmed Scheepers, Matika and Februarie face two counts of fraud, while Oerson and Mbengu face one count each. Februarie also faces another charge of corruption for the attempt to bribe Gibane.
The prosecutor in the case, advocate Tjaart van Zyl, did not oppose the suspects’ bail application as they cooperated with the police, have no previous criminal convictions and all have fixed addresses. The accused were released on bail varying between R1,000 and R500.
Their next court appearance is on 8 March at the Port Elizabeth Specialised Commercial Crimes Court.