Hildegard Steenkamp, the woman who orchestrated the embezzlement of a staggering R537 million from her employer, Medtronic, began her fraudulent activities merely six months after assuming the role of junior accountant in 2004, revealed testimony presented by Graham Dawes during the ongoing trial at the Johannesburg Commercial Crimes Court.
In an astonishing revelation, information emerged that Steenkamp’s embezzlement often exceeded R20 million per month, underlining the audacity and scale of her criminal operation, according to news24.
Dawes, a forensic investigator with Deloitte, testified for the state to provide additional context to the egregious nature of Steenkamp’s actions. Medtronic brought in the multidisciplinary team that Dawes was part of to conduct a thorough forensic investigation into Steenkamp’s activities.
Steenkamp’s guilty plea, offered in April at the Johannesburg Commercial Crimes Court, pertains to an astounding 336 charges related to the siphoning of R537 million from her employer, Medtronic (Pty) Ltd, where she held a position as an accountant.
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Dawes further elucidated that the theft occurred through 336 transactions spanning 2004 to December 2016, culminating in her resignation in January 2017.
Dawes disclosed the intricate details of Steenkamp’s modus operandi, stating: “The accused had to process all value-added tax [VAT] for the company by reclaiming it from SARS [the SA Revenue Service] and a customs clearing agent the company was using. She set herself up as a beneficiary on the bank account of Medtronic. She also had her deceased husband as a beneficiary, and that’s where the money went.”
Despite the Asset Forfeiture Unit’s efforts to seize Steenkamp’s assets, Dawes indicated that the unit did not recover any substantial money. The confiscated assets, valued just below R30 million, marked a partial recovery.
Dawes revealed that witnesses, including Steenkamp’s colleagues, attested to a noticeable change in her lifestyle from late 2005 to 2006. Steenkamp attempted to explain her improved financial circumstances due to inheritance, her late husband’s successful ventures, or luck in gambling.
During the trial, the court learned that Steenkamp’s late husband, Mathys, played a pivotal role in her fraudulent scheme. Most embezzled funds went into his bank account, which he used to support non-profitable business endeavours. Mathys tragically passed away in December 2014.
Steenkamp’s criminal activities culminated with two December 2016 transactions totalling R12 million. Medtronic suffered a staggering loss of nearly R770 million due to Steenkamp’s embezzlement and fraudulent claims to SARS.
Dawes also unveiled the international scope of the investigation, highlighting that Medtronic’s efforts spanned multiple countries and cost approximately R30 million.
The case’s implications extend beyond Medtronic’s internal operations, as the company also faces a legal dispute with SARS over the fraudulently claimed VAT. The legal battle has incurred costs of R6.3 million to date.
Picture: Twitter / Am_Blujay
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