Mahatma Gandhi’s great-granddaughter has been sentenced to seven years in jail by a South African court in connection with a six-million rand fraud and forgery case, PTI reported on Tuesday. Ashish Lata Ramgobin, 56, was found guilty on Monday.
The Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court also refused Ramgobin leave to appeal both the conviction and the sentencing. She is the daughter of rights activists Ela Gandhi and Mewa Ramgobin.
Lata Ramgobin was charged with defrauding businessman SR Maharaj after he gave her a loan of 6.2 million rand (approximately Rs 3.22 crore) for allegedly clearing import and Customs duties on a non-existent package from India. He was promised a part of the profits.
The trial in the case started in 2015. At that time, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi of the National Prosecuting Authority had said that Ramgobin had procured false invoices and documents to convince potential investors that three containers of linen were being carried in from India.
However, Ramgobin was then released on a bail of 50,000 rand.
Maharaj and Ramgobin met in August 2015. Maharaj is the director of the New Africa Alliance Footwear Distributors. The company imports, manufactures and sells clothing, linen and footwear. Maharaj’s company also provides finance to other companies on a profit-share basis.
“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,” NPA spokesperson Natasha Kara said on Monday. “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.” Kara said Ramgobin sent Maharaj “what seemed to be a NetCare invoice and delivery note” later to show that the items were delivered and payment was guaranteed. But when Maharaj found out that the documents were forged and NetCare had no arrangements with Ramgobin, he pressed criminal charges against the latter.
Ramgobin is the founder and the executive director of the Participative Development Initiative at the International Centre for Non-Violence. Her work mainly focuses on “environmental, societal and political” matters.