Trial dates set for accused in R280m Estina scandal | The Citizen

Trial dates set for accused in R280m Estina scandal | The Citizen

The trial is set to take place from 5 August to 13 September 2024.

Legal proceedings in the high-profile R280 million Estina Dairy case have taken a significant step forward, with trial set to take place from 5 August to 13 September in the Bloemfontein High Court.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Investigative Directorate spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka said the accused are facing a number of charges, including the contravention of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), fraud, corruption, and money laundering.

She explained these charges stem from their alleged involvement in the misappropriation of funds from the Free State Department of Agriculture through Estina.

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The prosecution alleges Estina received R280 million in funds over a period spanning from July 2012 to April 2014. “Investigations into the matter also uncovered substantial irregularities, most notably the absence of proper tender procedures surrounding the decision to allocate funds for the proposed Vrede Dairy Project,” she said.

The Estina case has attracted national attention due to its scale and the involvement of high-ranking individuals. The accused, including former MEC Mosebenzi Zwane, are alleged to have played a central role in diverting funds intended for agricultural development towards personal gain.

The investigation further found Estina failed to fulfill its obligations as outlined in the agreement, with only the department making contributions into Estina’s designated bank accounts.

Seboka also emphasized the importance of the trial in upholding transparency and accountability within government operations.

“This trial marks a significant step towards addressing allegations of corruption and financial impropriety at a high level,” Seboka stated. “The Investigating Directorate is committed to ensuring a thorough and fair legal process, where all parties are afforded the opportunity to present their cases.”

The trial dates have been scheduled to allow for a comprehensive examination of the evidence and witness testimonies.

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The Vrede Dairy Project, initiated in 2012 on Krynaauwslust Farm near the town of Vrede, Free State was established in collaboration with Estina, a Black Economic Empowerment firm, as part of the Mohoma-Mobung agricultural initiative led by the Free State provincial government. The land was allocated to Estina through a lease that spanned 99 years.

The primary objective behind the million-rand dairy project was to uplift black farmers.

However, a review of bank records allegedly revealed no disbursements were made to benefit black recipients. Instead, the dairy farm allegedly functioned as a mere conduit through which funds were channelled to the corrupt.