The Hawks are prosecuting 74 people for the illegal diversion of South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) grants.

The suspects are mostly Sassa employees, with some from the South African Post Office (SAPO).

According to a statement from the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks), it has been investigating allegations of illegal diversion of the Sassa social assistance grants allegedly by SASSA employees from beneficiaries’ bank accounts since 9 February 2021.

The allegations purported that around June 2018, when Sassa was issuing the new Sassa/South African Post Office bank cards, some pensioners and other grant beneficiaries never received their pensions and grants. It was believed the money was illegally diverted to other accounts.

In June 2019, a total of 20 787 fraud cases had been registered within the SAPO and, of these, 12 432 social grant beneficiaries were reimbursed for the losses they suffered to the total value of more than R21-million.

Sassa recalled payments in July 2019 because of suspected fraud in that the banking details did not match grant beneficiary details. At that stage a new modus operandi was identified whereby a beneficiary’s social grant bank account was changed or diverted into a new bank account without the knowledge of the beneficiary. The funds would then be withdrawn from the new account by an unknown person/s.

In November 2019, police made 61 arrests of which six were SAPO employees. Of the reported cases, 18 were referred to the Hawks for further investigation, following which a total of 80 suspects were arrested. Cases against six accused were withdrawn pending further investigation whilst the others are on trial in various courts around the country.

The investigation is continuing, according to the Hawks.