Missing millions trial underway in S.A.: The Church of England Newspaper, February 17, 2012 p 6. February 23, 2012Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper, Corruption.
Tags: Diocese of George, Donald Harker, Thabo Makgoba
First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.
Trial has begun in South Africa of a former diocesan bookkeeper accused of stealing over R2.3 million (£200,000) from the Diocese of George. Gwendoline Leyd (45) is scheduled to appear for trial before the George Regional Court in the Western Cape on 28 February 2012 to face 10 counts of theft.
The scandal has far led to the resignation of the Bishop of George, the Rt. Rev. Donald Harker, and to the dissolution of the diocese’s Board of Finance.
In a 12 Aug 2010 letter to the diocese, Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba wrote that a Port Elizabeth auditor firm was investigating over 1000 suspect transactions in excess of R6 million that had been brought to the church’s attention in 2009.
The auditors found that “significant fraud and theft had been taking place and that a forensic audit was required to ascertain the extent of the amount embezzled.”
“After visiting Bishop Harker, he agreed to step down as Diocesan Bishop with effect from 10 August 2010,” the archbishop said.
Bishop Harker was not accused of malfeasance. “I resigned as head of the church as this is the honourable thing to do as I accept responsibility and thereby take the liabilities on me,” the bishop later told his clergy.
Ms. Leyd served as the diocese’s accounts clerk for 16 years until 2009. Following the audit the Commercial Crime Unit arrested the bookkeeper on 10 charges of theft in excess of R2.3-million.
Southern Cape police spokeswoman Captain Bernadine Steyn stated the suspect allegedly moved funds from the church’s accounts into her personal account via the internet and also claimed false medical expenses, allowances and additional salary.
“Fictitious beneficiaries were allegedly created to receive church money, and money was allegedly paid into Leyd’s brother’s personal bank account, and then used by the suspect,” Captain Steyn said.