Cell C IT executive accused of swindling over R130 million in 8 years


Cell C’s former head of IT is accused of masterminding a scam that siphoned R357.3 million from the mobile network operator over the course of eight years, Mail & Guardian reported.

This follows reports from earlier this year that the IT executive and an accomplice were arrested for alleged fraud and corruption.

“They allegedly colluded with a director of a contracted entity responsible for IT and network service provider and falsely inflated invoices,” the South African Police Service stated.

In response to the article, Cell C said that the R357 million figure quoted in the report is actually the total value of orders over that period.

“The quantum of the fraud is estimated at R130m,” Cell C stated.

The Mail & Guardian reported that National Prosecuting Authority documents show that, between January 2012 and January 2020, Mohamed Adamjee allegedly orchestrated 83 transactions to defraud Cell C.

According to Adamjee’s Linkedin profile, he was at Cell C for more than 18 years, starting as a service delivery manager in January 2002.

He then served as a senior IT manager from 2006 to 2010 before becoming the executive head of IT in November 2010.

Court documents from a South Gauteng High Court judgement handed down on 16 October 2020 name Adamjee and his former coworker, Adriaan Pillay, as alleged co-conspirators in the scam.

Pillay served under Adamjee at Cell C until July 2014, when he resigned after disciplinary proceedings were pending against him.

Cell C told the court it discovered collusion between Adamjee and Pillay in March 2020 via the procurement of IT goods and services through two entities — Cornastone Enterprise Systems and Techno Genius CC.

“Through Adamjee’s influence, Cell C would contract with Cornastone as its ‘preferred supplier’ for the required IT goods and/or services not knowing that Cornastone’s quotes are exaggerated,” the judgement stated.

Throughout this period, Pillay was the sole director of Techno Genius, and he and Adamjee each also held a 50% beneficial ownership of a company called House and Home Refurbishments.

Following the judgement, the police arrested two men linked to Cornastone in April this year — Manuel Teixeira and Lufuno Nevhutalu.

Texeira is the former sales director, and Nevhutalu the former CEO of Cornastone.

All four men will face 83 counts of fraud, the Mail & Guardian reported.

They are all out on bail of R50,000 each and have indicated that they would plead not guilty on all counts.

Citing a well-placed source, the Mail & Guardian reported that the amount would go beyond R357 million, possibly over R500 million, as investigators probed the case further.

Cell C declined to comment on this, saying that it was inappropriate for it to do so while the matter is before the courts.

Mail & Guardian also reported that Adamjee bought a Toyota Hilux and a Yamaha superbike among many other toys and gadgets, and helped close friends and family members with debt repayments using the funds he allegedly misappropriated from Cell C.

According to the report, Adamjee used his private email account to communicate with his alleged co-conspirators.

These emails were reportedly intercepted by Cell C executives and handed over to investigators, and will be instrumental and securing a conviction.

In the October 2020 judgement, Cell C said that it was concerned about Adamjee and Pillay destroying evidence related to the alleged procurement fraud.

Cell C said it discovered an email sent from Adamjee’s Gmail account to Cornastone related to the Techno Genius payments in May 2020.

This led the company to unearth the alleged fraud and come to the belief that Adamjee used his personal email accounts to correspond with Pillay and Techno Genius over these activities.

Cell C was concerned that the accused would delete WhatsApp and email messages that could be used as evidence against them.

It sought and obtained a ruling to place the evidence in the custody of the police, and for their bank accounts to be frozen.

The judgement noted that Pillay is alleged to have interfered with this order by deleting 3GB of data from his email account, prompting Cell C to seek an extension of the order. This was granted with a punitive cost order against Pillay.

Zahir Williams
Zahir Williams, Cell C Chief Legal Officer

MyBroadband tried to contact Cornastone for comment, but calls to its listed number went unanswered.

Mohamed Adamjee did not respond to a request for comment.

Cell C’s chief legal officer, Zahir Williams, said that the company has a zero-tolerance approach to illegal and unethical conduct.

The company also previously told MyBroadband that the fraudulent activity extends to other former employees.

Williams stated that they would not hesitate to take appropriate action where there is evidence of wrongdoing.

“Cell C acted swiftly to involve law enforcement authorities to investigate incidents of serious workplace fraud and leading to the arrest of suspects who are now facing criminal prosecution,” he said.

Regarding questions about how they secured the email evidence from Adamjee’s personal account, William said that it is not appropriate for Cell C to comment on matters of evidence that the prosecution is dealing with.

“The matter is before the courts, and Cell C is co-operating fully and working with the relevant prosecuting authority and will allow the law to take its course in this case.”

Main Image: riskowner.com

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