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Former Wits Official Arrested In U.S. For Alleged Money Laundering of USAID Funds

10/02/2017 09:16 SAST | Updated 10/02/2017 09:27 SAST
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A former senior manager at the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (WRHI) has been arrested in the United States for allegedly misappropriating approximately $230 000 (about R3m) of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funding in South Africa.

According to a statement released by the Office of the Inspector General in the US - which was published on Fox34.com - the official was arrested in Washington DC this week on charges relating to money laundering of USAID-supported HIV/Aids funding for programmes in SA.

He had worked at the WRHI since 2009 and resigned while serving as the deputy executive director in May 2016. This was after the discovery of his potential involvement in fraudulent activity at the institute.

The Office of the Inspector General conducts oversight on US foreign assistance programmes, some of which fall under the US Agency for International Development. It had opened an investigation into the matter, which was still ongoing, it said.

According to the statement, USAID had awarded the WRHI almost $77m (about R1bn) for three programmes aimed at supporting HIV/Aids patients and assisting the SA government with its plans to treat at-risk populations.

University of Witwatersrand spokesperson Shirona Patel said a criminal case had also been opened locally with the South African Police Service against the official.

"The university and its associated entities will not tolerate the misuse of donor and/or grant funds. Its strong systems, quick action and co-operation with partners ensured that these alleged fraudulent activities were identified, managed and pursued quickly," Patel said.

She said the WRHI had subsequently taken a precautionary measure to review all its grants and related activities and had found that there were no other irregularities.

"The management of this case demonstrates that the university will deal decisively with any illegal activity, including fraud," she said.

The WRHI was the leading research institute in its field globally, producing "important work that saves and betters the lives of millions every day", Patel added.

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