The 56-year-old great-granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi — leader of the Indian freedom movement — has been sentenced to seven years in jail in South Africa in connection with a fraud and forgery case.
A Durban court on Monday found Ashish Lata Ramgobin guilty of a six million rand fraud and forgery case and she has been refused leave to appeal both the conviction and the sentence by the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court, the local news reported.
Ramgobin, the daughter of rights activists Ela Gandhi and late Mewa Ramgobind, was accused of defrauding a businessman after he sent her 6.2 million rand for allegedly clearing import and customs duties for a non-existent consignment from India.
SR Maharaj, owner of the New Africa Alliance Footwear Distributors, and Ramgobin met in August 2015. Mr Maharaj was promised that he would get a percentage of the profit from the fake consignment deal.
Ramgobin used forged invoices and documents to convince potential investors that three containers of linen were being shipped from India. The trial for this fraud and forgery case started in 2015 and at that time she was released on a bond of 50,000 rand.
Natasha Kara, spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) of South Africa, told the media that Ramgobin was “experiencing financial difficulties to pay for import costs and customs and she needed the money to clear the goods at the harbour.”
Ms Kara said: “To convince him, she showed him what she claimed was a signed purchase order for the goods. Later that month, she sent him what seemed to be a NetCare [healthcare provider in South Africa] invoice and delivery note as proof that the goods were delivered and payment was imminent.”
Mr Maharaj’s company imports, manufactures and sells clothing, linen and footwear. He also provides finance to other companies on a profit-share basis.
Ramgobin “further sent him confirmation from NetCare’s bank account that payment had been made.”
When Mr Maharaj saw the documents, he signed a written agreement with Ramgobin for a loan.
Mr Maharaj, on finding out about the forgery and fake documents, laid criminal charges, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.
Ramgobin was the founder and executive director of the Participative Development Initiative at the nonprofit International Centre for Non-Violence, where she was “an activist with a focus on environmental, societal and political interests,” PTI reported.