After four years of running from law enforcement and several months in court—Ruvunya Ramiah and Ayush Rambally have officially been sentenced for their crimes against the KwaZulu-Natal Deaf and Blind Society.
The couple were arrested in Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal on 14 April 2022 after stealing from the organisation that assisted scores of disabled people.
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With the odds against them, the couple plead guilty to fraud and theft in June 2022. Ramiah pleaded guilty to 354 counts of fraud, amounting to over R12.6 million, while Rambally pleaded guilty to 79 counts of theft, amounting to approximately R1.7 million.
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After over six months of deliberation on their sentencing, spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Natasha Kara said that the Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes Court sentenced Ramiah and Rambally to 15 years and 10 years imprisonment (two years wholly suspended for a period of five years) respectively.
“In her plea, Ramiah stated that she was employed as a Finance Officer, at the KwaZulu-Natal Blind and Deaf Society from March 2012 to February 2019. Her duties included salary payments and general payments, and she had access to and control of the Society’s banking accounts. She said she committed fraud by paying herself inflated salaries, twice and sometimes more times in the same month. She also created false payments to suppliers and fabricated evidence to support those payments. The money went into her bank account and that of her husband,” said Kara.
During his plea, Rambally said that he took the money knowing very well that he was not entitled to it, as he was neither an employee nor a creditor of the Society.
“He admitted to being aware that his actions were unlawful and that he intended to permanently deprive the Society of the funds, which he would use for his and his wife’s purposes,” told Kara.
In aggravation of the sentence, Senior State Advocate Andre Carlitz led the evidence of Veetha Sewkuran, the president of the Society.
Kara explained, “Sewkuran said that once news of the fraud had gotten out, funders and companies withdrew their funding and association with the Society. She said that the lack of funds resulted in them retrenching 15 staff members who then took the Society to the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), thus causing the Society further financial problems.”
Sewkuran further mentioned that Ramiah was in a position of trust, and she betrayed that trust. Adding to this, she pointed out that the fraud committed has impacted the reputation of the Society, with the Society needing to prove itself as it is still under scrutiny from donors and the public.
“She said that the Society may have to close its doors should they not recover from their loss,” explained Kara.
In handing down the sentence, the court found that the couple did not show remorse and pleaded guilty due to the overwhelming evidence against them. The court concluded that their motive was greed and not need, as they were receiving an income and Ramiah held a full-time job. They were sentenced accordingly.
Concluding Kara stated, “The National Prosecuting Authority welcomes this sentence, and we hope that this sentence has the necessary deterrent effect. White-collar crime is considered a serious offence and offenders will be brought to justice. Well done to the Prosecutor and the various stakeholders involved in this successful prosecution.”
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