South Africa: Indian-origin Covid scam whistleblower killed
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AN Indian-origin woman in South Africa has been allegedly gunned down for exposing critical information about a multi-million-dollar personal protective equipment (PPE) fraud during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown. Babita Deokaran, 53, who was a high official at the Gauteng provincial health department, was shot multiple times through her car’s door and window early on Monday (23) outside her residence in Winchester Hills, Johannesburg.
Deokaran was targeted after she dropped off her child at school and returned home. She was rushed to hospital but succumbed to her injuries. South Africa’s Daily Maverick reported that none of her possessions was removed from her bullet-riddled vehicle, including her mobile phone, handbag and laptop. A high-level investigation was launched into the murder.
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Two key sources told Daily Maverick that an arrest was imminent in relation to the case. However, police refused to divulge details. On Tuesday (24), Gauteng premier David Makhura said a dedicated police team has been asked to nab the criminals.
Deokaran had provided critical information regarding a fraud amount to more than $20 million into the supply of PPE during the pandemic-induced lockdown in South Africa last year.
Serious Crime Investigation Unit spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said that Deokaran was one of the witnesses in the investigation by the unit into corruption in the health department and it was nearing conclusion. He also said that Deokaran never indicated that she had felt threatened by her participation in the probe.
Makhura said Deokaran had been removed from her position as the chief director of financial accounting to acting chief financial officer in August 2020 in the wake of the PPE fraud claims, which had resulted in some dismissals last year, including the provincial health minister.
Deokaran was “a distinguished and exemplary public servant who served the people of Gauteng and the Department of Health with exceptional professionalism, unswerving dedication and high ethical standards,” the premier said. He said Deokaran had unearthed corruption and stopped payments for a number of irregular contracts in the department.
Makhura confirmed that Deokaran had unearthed corruption and stopped payments for a number of irregular contracts in the department.
“She took to heart the call to bring perpetrators of corruption and looting of public resources to book. The result of her good deeds led to successful dismissals within the department and saw the institution of civil claims to recover public funds from businesses and government officials responsible for malfeasance and corruption,” Makhura said in a statement.
“On behalf of the provincial government, I wish to extend my heartfelt condolences to the Deokaran family and her colleagues in the Gauteng Department of Health,” he added.
The premier also said that everything will be done to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to law.