Gandhiji’s great-granddaughter jailed for 7 years in South Africa fraud case

Ashish Lata Ramgobin is accused of defrauding a businessman after he paid her an amount for allegedly clearing duties for a non-existent consignment from India

Lata Ramgobin was also refused leave to appeal both the conviction and the sentence. -- Image: Twitter

Mahatma Gandhi’s 56-year-old great-granddaughter Ashish Lata Ramgobin has been jailed for seven years in a six-million rand (₹3.22 crore) fraud and forgery case.  She was sentenced by a Durban court after she was found guilty in the fraud case, PTI reported.

Lata Ramgobin  has been accused of defrauding businessman SR Maharaj, director of the New Africa Alliance Footwear Distributors. Maharaj had advanced her 6.2 million rand,  allegedly for clearing import and customs duties for a consignment from India that was, in fact, non-existent. According to the PTI report,  the businessman was promised a share in the profits.

Daughter of Ela Gandhi

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Daughter of well-known rights activists Ela Gandhi and the late Mewa Ramgobind, Lata Ramgobin was refused leave to appeal the conviction and the sentence by the Durban Specialized Commercial Crime Court.

Also read: Spectacles reportedly worn by Mahatma Gandhi emerge at UK auction

Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had said at the tiral that Lata Ramgobin provided invoices and documents — allegedly forged — to convince investors containers of linen were imported from India. She was then released on a bail of 50,000 rand.

According to media reports, Lata Ramgobin had met Maharaj  in August 2015. His company makes, imports and sells garments, linen and footwear. Additionally, it offers financing to other companies on a profit-share basis.

Lata Ramgobin reportedly had told Maharaj she was shipping in three containers of linen for the South African Hospital Group NetCare, from India

Also read: After experiments with Hindi as national language, how Gandhi changed his mind

According to media reports, NPA spokesperson Natasha Kara said: “Lata Ramgobin said she was experiencing financial difficulties to pay for import costs and customs and she needed the money to clear the goods at the harbour.

“She told him (Maharaj) that she needed 6.2 million rand. 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 invoice and delivery note as proof that the goods were delivered and payment was imminent.”

Criminal charges

Lata Ramgobin “further sent him confirmation from NetCare’s bank account that payment had been made”, Kara reportedly said. Allegedly keeping in mind Lata Ramgobin’s family credentials and the NetCare documents, Maharaj entered into an agreement with her. Subsequently, finding the documents to be forged, he levelled criminal charges on her.

Lata Ramgobin described herself as “an activist with a focus on environmental, societal and political interests”, per media reports. She was the founder and executive director of the Participative Development Initiative at the NGO International Centre for Non-Violence.

Among Mahatma Gandhi’s desecendants are human rights activists, such as Lata Ramgobin’s cousins Kirti Menon, the late Satish Dhupelia, and Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie.

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