State Recovers R111m Stolen from UIF’s COVID-19 Relief Scheme by Businessman

The Gauteng High Court has ruled that R111 million in COVID-19 TERS payments stolen by businessman Thabo Abel Simbini and frozen in his bank accounts will be paid into the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said the forfeiture order the court issued on Tuesday followed a successful preservation order it obtained last year in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act related to property believed to be the proceeds of fraud, theft and money laundering.

Simbini, through his company, Impossible Services applied for the UIF’s COVID-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme (COVID-19 TERS) on behalf of over 6,000 workers. 

An amount of R111 million was subsequently disbursed to Simbini who transferred the funds to several accounts.

After joint efforts by the UIF’s investigators, the Hawks, NPA and the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), Simbini’s bank accounts were frozen and he was arrested and charged. 

The Employment and Labour Department’s Thobile Lamati welcomed the news and expressed appreciation to the law enforcement agencies who worked tirelessly to ensure the money was paid back to the UIF’s coffers.

“We are putting on notice to those who have gain illegally from the monies that we were disbursing to help workers through the hard lockdown that their day is coming. They will not escape.” 

Simbini is also facing a charge of corruption after he attempted to bribe a UIF official to release the ill-gotten monies, but was arrested during a sting operation.

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