Ashish Lata Ramgobin, the 56-year-old great-granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, has been jailed for seven years in a six-million rand (Rs 3.22 crore) fraud and forgery case. Mahatma Gandhi’s great-granddaughter was sentenced by a Durban court after she was found guilty in the fraud case.
Ashish Lata Ramgobin was accused of defrauding businessman SR Maharaj after he advanced R6.2 million to her for allegedly clearing import and Customs duties for a non-existent consignment from India. SR Maharaj was promised a share of profits, PTI reported.
Lata Ramgobin, daughter of noted rights activists Ela Gandhi and late Mewa Ramgobind, was also refused leave to appeal both the conviction and the sentence by the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court.
During the trial, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had said that Lata Ramgobin allegedly provided forged invoices and documents to convince investors that three containers of linen were being shipped in from India.
At that time, Lata Ramgobin was released on a bail of 50,000 rand.
Lata Ramgobin had met SR Maharaj, director of the New Africa Alliance Footwear Distributors, in August 2015. 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 R6.2 million. 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 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.