Woman accused of R13.5m fraud

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A Port Elizabeth woman’s alleged fraudulent activities – numbering almost 1,000 incidents – went undiscovered for nine years as she allegedly siphoned off almost R13.5m from her employer.
But now, with a paper trail that shows how she allegedly stole a staggering 972 times from the Eastcape Training Centre, Estelle Burgess indicated on Monday she intended pleading guilty to the charges.
Burgess, who has subsequently moved to Rustenburg, was employed at the training centre as a creditor’s clerk.
On March 31 2005, she allegedly stole her first amount of just over R7,000.
The amount of money allegedly pocketed on each occasion varied, but as time went by it rapidly increased.
What remained the same, as alleged by the prosecution, was her modus operandi.
On Monday, she quietly took to the dock in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court.
State advocate Bongo Mvinjelwa asked magistrate Lionel Lindoor to postpone the matter to May 22 for the drafting of a possible plea.
Burgess is represented by defence attorney Theuns Roelofse.
Her duties at the centre had included the capturing of payments due to suppliers or creditors, and then submitting the captured payment lists for authorisation and payment.
The Eastcape Training Centre made use of a Standard Bank online internet payment system to pay its creditors.
Burgess was under the direct supervision of the financial manager of the centre, Faisal Ackerdien, and assisted him to make payments to creditors.
Only Burgess and Ackerdien had access to the business banking system.
Burgess had prepared remittance advices, created spreadsheets which included the banking details and names of the creditors, the amounts due to them for payment and a summary sheet with all the invoices of the creditors.
She would prepare and present these documents to Ackerdien, who would then authorise payment.
“Ackerdien signed off on payment, released the payment and paid the creditors, relying on Burgess’s information,” the charge sheet reads.
The state sets out in papers how Burgess had a total of nine bank accounts with Absa, FNB, Standard Bank and Nedbank in her name or under her control.
She then allegedly fraudulently substituted the banking details of the training centre creditors or suppliers with her own details, resulting in large amounts of money being paid into her personal accounts between 2005 and 2014.
“In the result, amounts totalling R13.47m were deposited into the aforesaid bank accounts of the accused during the period,” the charge sheet reads.
While some amounts transferred into her personal bank account were small – such as R1,000 in March 2005 – at times she allegedly stole more than R50,000 at a time.
“Creditors” with her banking details included The Herald’s then umbrella company Johnnic and later Avusa, the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality and Waltons Stationery.
The final amount allegedly stolen was on September 12 2014, when R10,000 supposedly meant for Algoa Brick was transferred into Burgess’s Absa bank account.
She is out on bail...

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