Ashish Lata Ramgobin, 56-year old great-granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi has been sentenced to 7 years in jail. Ramgobin was found guilty in a Rs 3.22 crore (R6.2million) fraud and forgery case by the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court.
Ramgobin, who is the daughter of human rights activist Ela Gandhi, was accused of duping a businessman named SR Maharaj after he sent Rs 3.22 crore (R6.2 million) in advance to her for clearing import and customs duties for a consignment from India. Maharaj was promised a share of profits, PTI reported.
She was refused leave to appeal both the conviction as well as the sentence issued. On Monday, the court was informed that Ramgobin met Maharaj, director of the New Africa Alliance Footwear Distributors in August 2015. Maharaj's firm imports, manufactures and sells clothing, linen, and footwear besides providing finance to other companies on a profit-share basis.
When the trial began in 2015, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said the founder and executive director of the Participant Development Initiative at the NGO International Centre for Non-Violence, Ramgobin allegedly provided false invoices and documents to convince potential investors that three containers of linen were being shipped for the South African Hospital Group NetCare from India. Back then, she was released on a bail with a fine of Rs 2.68 lakh.
NPA spokesperson Natasha Kara said, "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."
Kara added, "She advised him (Maharaj) that she needed R6.2 million. To convince him, she showed him what she claimed was a signed purchase order for the goods. Later that month, she sent time what seemed to be a NetCare invoice and delivery note as proof that the goods were delivered and payment was imminent."
Lata had further sent him a payment confirmation from NetCare's bank account. Due to these documents and Ramgobin's family credentials, Maharaj entered into an agreement with her for a loan. Maharaj, however, laid criminal charges on Ramgobin after he found that documents were fake and NetCare had no arrangements with her.
Edited with PTI inputs