Court sentences ICASA boss to 20 years

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 15 Feb 2019
Rubben Mohlaloga was found guilty of fraud and money laundering in January 2018. (Photo source: ICASA via Twitter)
Rubben Mohlaloga was found guilty of fraud and money laundering in January 2018. (Photo source: ICASA via Twitter)

Rubben Mohlaloga, chairperson of the council of the Independent Communications of SA (ICASA), has been sentenced to 20 years for his role in defrauding the Land Bank of approximately R6 million in 2008.

This is according to a report by Business Day, which says Mohlaloga, who is currently out on bail, successfully applied for leave to appeal his sentence on Thursday.

"His lawyer, Rudi Krause, on Friday morning confirmed that Mohlaloga would petition the North Gauteng High Court to challenge his convictions, which Krause described as bad in law and unsupported by the facts," quotes the newspaper.

Mohlaloga, whose appointment as ICASA council chairperson came into effect on 1 December 2017, was found guilty of fraud and money laundering by a specialised commercial crimes court in January 2018.

The chairperson and his co-accused, which includes former Land Bank CEO Philemon Mohlahlane and other accomplices, conspired and transferred R6 million from the Land Bank into Masepule Dinga Attorneys' trust account, according to the Hawks.

After the R6 million was received, say the Hawks, the funds were distributed and a farm was bought for R2 million, as well as an X5 BMW and a BMW 118i for Mohlaloga, who was a member of Parliament and chairperson of the Portfolio Committee of Agriculture at the time.

Fraudster at the helm

Despite having a history of fraud allegations brought against him, the National Assembly still approved Mohlaloga's appointment as chairperson of the ICASA council.

Mohlaloga was initially appointed as an ICASA councillor in July 2013.

At the time, the Department of Communications, under Dina Pule, said it was unaware Mohlaloga had the fraud charge hanging over his head when he was short-listed. He had also not disclosed the matter to the department, despite holding a senior position.

The Portfolio Committee on Communications condoned Mohlaloga's appointment after he was charged as there was nothing it could do to legally remove him.

A memo prepared by the Constitutional and Legal Services Office for the communications committee provided the opinion that no action can be taken against Mohlaloga, as he is presumed innocent.

Once councillors have been appointed, they can only be removed by the communications minister on grounds of misconduct, and can only justifiably be removed once they have been convicted, for example, for fraud, the memo stated.

After his stint as councillor, he was appointed as acting chairperson on 22 June 2016, pending the appointment of a permanent chairperson. Between July 2015 and November 2017, the position of chairperson of the ICASA council was rotated.

In September 2017, the regulator announced Mohlaloga's departure and said he would be replaced by Paris Mashile. On 1 December 2017, Mohlaloga made a comeback and was appointed as council chairperson.

Mohlaloga's chairperson status remained unchanged while he waited sentencing for his fraud conviction.

ICASA previously said Mohlaloga would remain in his position until such time the National Assembly adopted a resolution calling for his removal.