Hawks arrest Sassa syndicate members

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FILE image - an example of the official SASSA MasterCard of which 10-million have been issued to South African social grant beneficiaries.

FILE image - an example of the official SASSA MasterCard of which 10-million have been issued to South African social grant beneficiaries.

JOHANNESBURG - Fourteen people have been arrested after investigations found them to have allegedly been part of a massive social grants fraud syndicate operating within the Sassa grants system.

“The syndicate operates inter-provincially and the operation is the biggest one to date,” Hawks spokesman Robert Netshiunda said.

"More than 500 cases of ID fraud related to the fraudulent social grants were uncovered during the internal investigation. Friday’s arrests were a first part of the “take-down of this syndicate and more arrests are imminent”, he said.

“This collective success was achieved through our consistent multi-disciplinary agency investigative approach that include Sassa’s fraud management and compliance department, the private auditing and accounting firm, DPCI (Hawks), SAPS crime intelligence, and the National Prosecuting Authority specialised commercial crime unit.”

The syndicate was implicated in having defrauded Sassa of more than R2.3-million involving more than 400 social grants.

“This syndicate forms part of a broader on-going criminal investigation involving more than 4,776 fraudulent social grants amounting to more than R34.7-million identified to date. Eight Sassa officials and 14 Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) employees remain under investigation,” Netshiunda said.

All these officials were employed in the grants administration department of Sassa and were responsible for capturing and verifying social grants on Sassa’s Socpen system, he said.

Laptops, scanners, copying machines, ID’s, copies of ID’s, ID templates, CPS enrolment machines, printers, electronic storage devices, bank cards and Sassa cards were confiscated.