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Staff Reporter

Former Free State human settlements MEC Olly Mlamleli and her co-accused in the R255-million asbestos scandal have been released by the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on bail ranging between R50 000 and R500 000.

They are facing up to 60 counts, including corruption, fraud, theft and money laundering charges relating to the Free State asbestos project contract that was awarded in 2014.

Apart from the 63-year-old Mlamleli, the other accused individuals in the case are officials from the Free State human settlements department – head of department Nthimotse Mokhesi, 61, and supply chain management director Mahlomola John Matlakala, 42.

They are jointly charged with businessmen Pheagane Edwin Sodi, 47, Sello Joseph Radebe, 56, and Abel Kgotso Manyeki, 38, as well as a former director-general of the national department of human settlements, Thabane Wiseman Zulu, 53.

Six of the seven were arrested on Wednesday by members of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, the Hawks, during a synchronised operation in the Free State, Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng, while the seventh suspect handed himself over at midday on Thursday.

They were formally charged and then released on bail after appearing in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court today.

Acting Chief Magistrate MC Mokgobo ruled after the prosecution team led by state advocates, Johan De Nyschen and Dansi Mpevane, did not oppose bail, only insisting that it be set high given the seriousness of the offences.

Sodi’s bail was set at R500 000, while Mlamleli, Mokhesi, Radebe and Zulu were each released on R100 000 bail.

Matlakala and Manyeki were each asked to deposit R50 000 before they could be released on bail.

The seven appeared along five companies – Blackhead Consulting, Diamond Hill Trading 71 (Pty) Ltd, 605 Consulting Solutions (Pty) Ltd, Mastertrade 232 (Pty) Ltd and Ori Group (Pty) Ltd.

The state alleges that fraud to the value of R255 million was committed in the appointment of two companies, one from Gauteng, Blackhead Consultants, in 2014 as service provider to the Free State human settlements department for the “assessment and removal of asbestos roofs and/or housing”.

According to the National Prosecuting Authority, huge amounts of money were also laundered through a number of companies and accounts.

The state further alleges that the companies presented themselves as service providers with the necessary skills and expertise to provide the required services, but in fact did not have such skills and contravened the asbestos regulations.

The accused are expected back in court on November 11.

The NPA says investigations are continuing and further arrests are expected.

CHARGED . . . The accused individuals in the asbestos case follow court proceedings

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