Absa IT heist: Court refuses to relax bail conditions of alleged mastermind’s wife, other accused

Xolela Masebeni and his wife, Athembie Mpani.

Xolela Masebeni and his wife, Athembie Mpani.
Thapelo Morebudi/Sunday Times
  • Bail applications by two women linked to the R103-million Absa IT heist were dismissed in court.
  • The two women wanted to travel outside their home provinces.
  • The court only adjusted the bail conditions of one accused. 

An attempt to have bail conditions relaxed by two accused people in the R103-million Absa heist was shot down in court on Thursday.

Athembile Mpani and Penelope Thandiwe Mphahlele attempted to convince the Johannesburg Commercial Crimes Court sitting in Palm Ridge to relax their bail conditions.

Mpani is the wife of the slain Absa IT specialist and the alleged mastermind behind the heist, Xolela Masebeni.

Masebeni, who worked at the Absa offices in Sandton, allegedly fraudulently transferred R103 million from the bank into six different bank accounts between September and December 2021.

Masebeni was gunned down outside his home in the Eastern Cape earlier this year.

Mphahlele is reported to be in a relationship with her fellow co-accused Gershom Matomane.

Mpani claimed that she wanted to relocate from Queenstown and live at her new home in Khayelitsha.

She claimed that days after Masebeni’s death, his brother was shot and wounded, and that police investigating the two cases had advised her and Masebeni’s family to relocate to places they would be safe.

READ | Absa IT heist: Ex-lover of the alleged mastermind arrested in court

Prosecutor Sharon Masedi objected to the application.

“Her application can’t be substantiated. Since the death of Masebeni, we haven’t received reports of anyone in his family being threatened.

“If she wanted to stay with her mother, Nolitha Constance Mpani in Phillipi, it is understandable. Mpani must remain at her address that is in our documents. She hasn’t complained to us about any threat to her life. Her new address in Khayelitsha hasn’t been verified,” said Masedi.

Nolitha is also an accused in the matter.

She was arrested on 29 June. Mphahlele claimed that she wanted to relocate from Langa to a suburb in Cape Town.

She added that she was a robbery victim and felt unsafe living in Langa. Mphahlele asked the court to relax her bail, and be allowed to travel to Johannesburg and Pretoria.

She said she was a businesswoman and had to conduct some business in Gauteng.

Masedi also objected to her application.

“Her application has no merits. Being a victim of crime can happen to anyone. She was raised and had been staying in Langa all her life. Her business will be closed soon. Absa has brought a civil case against her company. The matter is currently in the high court,” said Masedi.

The court denied the applications by Mphahlele and Mpani, saying the two women should have taken the stand to convince the court.

Sangoma

The court only relaxed bail conditions brought by sangoma Khumbulani Elvis Ntombela.

Ntombela pleaded with the court to be allowed to travel to Gauteng between the 3rd and 7th of every month.

He was ordered to report to the Cleveland police station on his arrival and departure from Gauteng.

Mpani, Nolitha, Mphahlele, Matomane, Mphahlele, Simphiwe Magobiyane, Sicelo Cedric Ndebele, Sicelimpilo Simphiwe Msomi, and his father Mduduzi Sichiwe, were all present in court.

The accused and Matomane’s company, Maduna Gebevu Trading Services, allegedly received millions from the looted R103 million.

Only R66 million was ever recovered. Some of the money was used to buy luxury clothing, vehicles and expensive accommodation.

News24 understands that more suspects will be arrested. The case was postponed to 16 November.

All the accused, except for Magobiyane, Nolitha and Sichiwe are out on bail.

The three are expected to bring a formal bail application later on Thursday.

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