Joburg executive suspected of embezzling R3.7m seen in city
A Gauteng finance executive who allegedly drained more than R1.6-million from her company’s bank account in 10 minutes before going on the run with her son, has been spotted in Port Elizabeth.
Lynda Bedier, 56 – who has a previous fraud conviction in Port Elizabeth – and her son, Jayson, aged about 22, are being sought by investigators after packing up their home in Johannesburg, taking only the essentials, and fleeing to the coast less than three weeks ago.
The two were spotted in a Port Elizabeth restaurant on June 11 by a man who photographed them and confirmed their identity with investigators. They were also captured on CCTV.
The mother and son a re now believed to be either hiding out in the Bay or on the Garden Route.
Bedier had allegedly stolen R3.7-million since the middle of last year from the equipment supply company she works for as financial manager.
Of the total, R1.6-million was stolen in just 10 minutes on June 3 this year. The authorities have since managed to freeze R1.38-million left in the account. Bedier, according to investigators, is the only person with unrestricted access to transfer funds out of the account to pay suppliers.
Suspicions grew when Bedier failed to arrive for work at DPH earlier this month and her boss noticed her desk was cleared and files were missing.
DPH is a South African-based German subsidiary company which supplies industrial, mining and automotive equipment.
DPH general manager Nadia Morgan said in a statement to the police that the probe was triggered when she spotted a discrepancy in a payment to a supplier on May 30, while she was at the company’s head office in Germany.
This prompted her to send a message to Bedier asking her to investigate the payment. A day later, Morgan asked their security provider to change the alarm code.
“I was told the alarm was triggered on Friday, June 2 by Bedier,” she said. “Bedier then contacted [the receptionist], who supplied her with the new code after Bedier threatened her.”
Morgan’s suspicions were further aroused when Bedier was caught in a supposed lie after claiming to have been admitted to hospital.
“On June 2, I contacted my purchasing manager and asked him if Bedier was back at the office.
He confirmed she was there. “I was told she was only in the office for a short period and that she had threatened staff not to disclose to me she was there.”
Morgan returned from Germany on June 3 to discover that Bedier had claimed to have been readmitted to hospital after collapsing. “I was reasonably alarmed by now,” she said.
“I noted her filing cabinet was locked . . . the cabinet was never locked.
“I noticed her desk was clean. This was abnormal as her table was always packed with documents and files.” Morgan contacted the company’s bank manager, who sent her financial statements.
She immediately noticed unusual transactions on June 3, amounting to R1.6-million drained from the company’s account within 10 minutes in four separate transactions. Morgan contracted IRS Forensic Investigations to locate Bedier and recoup what it could.
IRS senior investigator Andre van Wyk said they had established that Bedier had previously been convicted of fraud in Port Elizabeth, in 2001, for which she was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment.
“During our investigation, we have found more transactions dating back to last year and amounting to R3.7-million,” he said.
An East Rand businessman, who did not want to be named, spotted Bedier and her son at a Summerstrand restaurant and recognised Jayson from The Game Exchange, where he worked.
“At first, I did not recognise him,” the man said. “It was bugging me so as they were leaving I asked the mother if they were from Johannesburg. “She denied it but I told her I recognised her son from The Game Exchange.
“The son recognised me and kept fidgeting and looking around. “This obviously made me wonder what the story was.” The man then searched the IRS Facebook page and found that they were wanted.
“I saw a few weeks ago that they were wanted by Bedfordview police, but obviously I forgot about that. “When I saw they were wanted, I left the restaurant to find them and confirm it was really them. I found them walking on the pier and snapped a picture which I sent to the IRS investigators.
“They confirmed it was them a short while later, but by that stage I had lost them.”
The man said he had contacted The Game Exchange owner, who confirmed that Jayson had not returned to work and police had been there looking for him.
Van Wyk said that within hours of the sighting, the two had returned to a nearby guesthouse in Summerstrand and then left. There is also CCTV footage of Bedier and her son at the guesthouse.
Asked about the probe, Van Wyk said Bedier had sole access to the company account for payment of suppliers. “We have established that the money was paid into her son’s [Jayson’s] bank accounts, again under the pretence that she was paying a supplier.
“It has also since been established that her salary has been paid into the same bank account and that she, in fact, does not have an account of her own.”
Van Wyk said all the funds were traced back to one of Jayson’s two bank accounts. The bank account had been frozen with the assistance of the Asset Forfeiture Unit.
Late last week, e-mails were sent to guesthouses and hotels in the Port Elizabeth area asking for assistance should the two book in. Anyone with information can contact Van Wyk on 083-743-4786.