THREE senior officials and one former official from the Northern Cape Department of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, who were arrested by the Hawks’ Serious Corruption Investigation team on Wednesday, will remain in custody until their next court appearance.
The four accused – former HOD Patrick Seboko, 66, chief financial officer (CFO) Kuberin Packirisamy, 60, senior project team manager Tebogo Basil Gaborone, 46, and chief director of trade and sector development Lizette Wyngaard, 56, – appeared in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court yesterday on charges of contravening the Diamond Act as well as the Public Finance Management Act.
Their case was postponed to Thursday for a formal bail application.
Hawks spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Philani Nkwalase said the State had not opposed bail.
“The case had to be rolled over until Thursday as an application was brought forward by the media to record the live court proceedings. The defence objected to the application and there was not enough time to finalise the bail applications on Wednesday,” said Nkwalase.
He added that an agreement was made to allow visuals of the accused to be taken outside of the court proceedings.
“The court granted a special request made by the defence to allow the accused to be accommodated at the police holding cells and not at a correctional services facility.”
The charges relate to diamonds that were purchased to the value of R6.7 million for a diamond cutting and polishing training programme at the Kimberley Diamond International Jewellery Academy (Kidja) in 2011.
The uncut diamonds were stolen from a safe. There were no signs of forced entry.
The MEC for the department at the time was John Block, who is currently serving a 15-year sentence after he was convicted on charges of corruption and money laundering relating to multimillion-rand leases that were secured for government buildings with the Trifecta group of companies.
Nkwalase said that it was discovered that the diamonds were missing during a random inspection that was conducted by the auditor-general in 2012.
Nkwalase added that the diamonds had been purchased with donor funds received from the European Union, exceeding R6.7 million, during the 2010/11 financial year.
“The diamonds were bought in March 2011 from a private entity without the necessary licences to buy rough diamonds, consequently these diamonds were stored at the premises of the same private entity,” he said.
Nkwalase stated that 40 students were enrolled in the same year to undergo a mining qualification course in cutting and polishing of diamonds, to be facilitated by the Kimberley Diamond International Jewellery Academy (Kidja).
“It was established that the diamonds were missing and unaccounted for in July 2012. This was uncovered during a random inspection by the auditor-general.
“The Hawks’ investigation into the diamonds saga resulted in the arrest of four senior officials from the Northern Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism,” said Nkwalase.
The senior manager of communications at the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, Thandiwe Modibela, said they had taken note of the developments regarding the arrest of the three department officials by the Hawks.
“The matter is still sub judice. The department will issue a full statement after knowing the reason for their charges,” said Modibela.