Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) chair Rubben Mohlaloga has been sentenced to an effective 20 years behind bars for money-laundering and fraud linked to a R6m Land Bank scam.
His lawyers on Thursday successfully applied for leave to appeal his sentence, and he has been released on bail pending the outcome of that appeal process.
His lawyer, Rudi Krause, on Friday morning confirmed that Mohlaloga would petition the North Gauteng High Court to challenge his convictions, which Krause described as “bad in law” and “unsupported by the facts”.
It was the state’s case that then Land Bank CEO Philemon Mohlahlane conspired with Mohlaloga, who was at the time an ANC MP and chair of parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture, and attorney Dinga Rammy Nkhwashu to unlawfully transfer R6m into the law firm’s trust account from the bank in 2008.
The Specialised Commercial Crimes Court found that this money was transferred from Agri-BEE, a broad-based BEE framework intended to support black South Africans to participate in the agricultural sector, to Dingwako Farming Projects.
The court found that this was done without following due processes and that Mohlahlane had instructed the fund manager at Agri-BEE to authorise the said payment without supporting documents.
The fund manager, Khutso Mosoma, turned state witness and testified that an application for a R6m grant to acquire land, livestock and processing units was done a month after the payment was transferred.
The court accepted the prosecution’s case that, contrary to what the application stated, the money was never used to benefit farm workers or upcoming farmers, but was spent on car payments and the purchase of two BMWs for Mohlaloga, among other things.
While the court accepted that the accused had bought a farm valued at R2.3m with part of the money in 2008, it accepted the state’s argument that this was done to disguise the fraud that had been committed. The court found that Mohlaloga had paid back only some of the money he had received “when he realised he was in trouble”.
Mohlahlane was sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in the scam, while Nkhwashu received a 24-year sentence and his law firm was ordered to pay a fine of R50,000. The fine sentence will be suspended over a five-year period.
Both Mohlahlane and Nkhwashu have been granted leave to appeal their sentences and released on bail.
Mohlaloga was appointed chair of Icasa in December 2017, despite being on trial for the Land Bank fraud. He was appointed to the previous Icasa board in 2013.
The Icasa Act prohibits anyone convicted of fraud from serving as a councillor of the communications industry regulator. But Mohlaloga has successfully applied for his removal to be stayed, pending the outcome of his appeal.