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South Africa: Mahatma Gandhi’s great-granddaughter jailed for seven years in fraud case

Ramgobin was accused of defrauding businessman SR Maharaj in 2015. Reports suggest that at that time, Maharaj gave her an advance of R6.2 million for allegedly clearing import and customs duties for a consignment from India that did not exist in reality.

On June 7 (local time), Ashish Lata Ramgobin, daughter of social activist Ela Gandhi and great-granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi has been found guilty in a 6 million rand fraud and forgery case by a Durban court. She has been sentenced to seven years in Jail.

The fraud case of 2015

Ramgobin was accused of defrauding businessman SR Maharaj in 2015. Reports suggest that at that time, Maharaj gave her an advance of R6.2 million for allegedly clearing import and customs duties for a consignment from India that did not exist in reality. Ramgobin had promised him a share in the profits. The Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court also refused leave to appeal both conviction and sentence.

Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), said during the trial in the case that Ramgobin provided forged documents and invoices to convince Maharaj that she had imported three containers of linen from India. Initially, she was released on bail of R50,000.

The court was informed that in August 2015, she met Maharaj, director of the New Africa Alliance Footwear Distributors that imports, manufactures and sells clothing, linen and footwear. The company also provides loans to other companies on a profit-share basis. When she met Maharaj, she told him that she had imported three containers of linen for the South African Hospital Group NetCare.

Natasha Kara, spokesperson, NPA, said in a statement, “She said she was experiencing financial difficulties to pay for import costs and customs, and she needed the money to clear the goods at the harbour.” She further asked Maharaj to lend R6.2 million so that she could clear the consignment. “To convince him, she showed him what she claimed was a signed purchase order for the goods. Later that month, she sent him what seemed to be a NetCare invoice and delivery note as proof that the goods were delivered and payment was imminent,” she added.

She even sent him confirmation from NetCare’s bank account that payment had been made. As Ramgobin had good family credentials and NetCare documents, Maharaj fell for the fraud and entered into a written agreement with her for the loan. Later, he found that the documents she provided were forged, and she never had any arrangements with NetCare. Maharaj immediately filed a complaint against her to initiate criminal charges.

The ‘real’ Gandhis

Lata Ramgobin is the daughter of Ela Gandhi. Ela Gandhi is the daughter of Manilal Gandhi, the second son of Mohandas Gandhi. Ela Gandhi is a known social activist in South Africa and was also a member of the South African Parliament.

Notably, many members of the ‘real’ Gandhi family, that is, the descendants of Mahatma Gandhi, are human rights activists, including Kirti Menon, the late Satish Dhupelia, Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie, Ela Gandhi and Lata Ramgobin herself. She was the founder and executive director of the Participative Development Initiative at the NGO named International Centre for Non-Violence.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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