Mahatma Gandhi’s great-granddaughter Ashish Lata Ramgobin has been jailed for seven years in prison after being found guilty by a Durban court for her role in a $441,811 fraud and forgery case on Monday.
The 56-year-old Ashish Lata Ramgobin was charged with scamming businessman SR Maharaj after he loaned her $458,310 for allegedly clearing import and Customs duties on a non-existent package from India. He was guaranteed a part of the profits.
Ramgobin is the daughter of renowned human rights activist Ela Gandhi and Mewa Ramgobind, who have both played instrumental roles in reviving the Phoenix Settlement established by Mahatma Gandhi during his tenure in South Africa.
On Monday, the court during the hearing was informed that Lata Ramgobin had met Maharaj, director of the New Africa Alliance Footwear Distributors, in August 2015.
When trial in the case against Lata Ramgobin started in 2015, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said when the trial against Lata Ramgobin began in 2015 that she allegedly presented false invoices and documentation to convince potential investors that three containers of linen were being carried in from India.
“She 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,” NPA spokesperson Natasha Kara said on Monday.
A founder and Executive Director of the Participative Development Initiative at the NGO International Centre for Non-Violence, Ramgobin described herself as “an activist with a focus on environmental, societal and political interests.”
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Several other South African descendants of Mahatma Gandhi have gained prominence for their efforts in human rights activism over many years, among them Kirti Menon, Satish Dhupelia, and Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie.
Ela Gandhi in particular has been internationally awarded for her efforts, including national honours from India.
His company imports and manufactures and sells clothing, linen and footwear, and also provides finance to other companies on a profit-share basis.
Mahatma Gandhi’s great-granddaughter had told Maharaj that she had imported three containers of linen for the South African Hospital Group NetCare.
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 $458,310 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,” the spokesperson said.
Lata Ramgobin “further sent him confirmation from NetCare’s bank account that payment had been made”, Kara said. Maharaj entered into an agreement with her owing to Ramgobin’s family credentials and NetCare documents.
He later laid criminal charges upon finding that the documents were forged.
Ramgobin was the founder and executive director of the Participative Development Initiative at the NGO International Centre for Non-Violence, where she described herself as “an activist with a focus on environmental, societal and political interests.”
A number of other descendants of Mahatma Gandhi are human rights activists and among them are Lata Ramgobin’s cousins Kirti Menon, the late Satish Dhupelia, and Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie. Ramgobin’s mother Ela Gandhi in particular has been internationally recognised for her efforts, including national honours from both India and South Africa.