Former senior Wits manager arrested in US for alleged money laundering
TMG Digital | 2017-02-09 14:44:03.0
Wits university. File photo
Image by: Matshidiso Madia via Twitter
The University of the Witwatersrand has confirmed that a former senior manager from the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (WRHI) has been arrested in the United States following allegations of the misappropriation of funds involving approximately US$230‚000.
Although it did not disclose the suspect’s name‚ the US Office of the Inspector General earlier named him as South African HIV consultant Dr Eugene Sickle‚ whom it said had been arrested in the US on Wednesday for money laundering linked to US funding for HIV/Aids programmes.
“Special agents apprehended Dr Sickle in Washington‚ DC‚ for offences committed in relation to USAID-supported HIV/Aids programmes in South Africa‚” the US Office of the Inspector General said in a press release.
The Office of the Inspector General monitors US-funded programmes overseas which fall under the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
Confirming that a senior official had been arrested‚ Wits said the alleged irregularities were originally identified by the WRHI which embarked on a full investigation. It said the suspect was questioned and he immediately resigned from his position. His laptop was seized and a forensic audit was immediately commissioned‚ the university said.
“USAID was immediately informed and the WRHI appointed KPMG to conduct a forensic audit. The WRHI‚ USAID‚ KPMG and the Office of the Inspector General in the US cooperated throughout the investigation.
“A criminal case has also been opened with the South African Police Services‚” Wits said in a statement.
It gave the assurance that donor funds remained safe.
The university added that it and its associated entities would not tolerate the misuse of donor and/or grant funds.
“The University’s strong systems‚ quick action and cooperation with partners ensured that these alleged fraudulent activities were identified‚ managed and pursued quickly.
“It is estimated that the total funds allegedly misappropriated amounts to US$230‚000‚ the bulk of which will be covered by insurance. The project will not suffer any reduction in funding and there will be no direct loss to USAID‚” the university stated.
As a precautionary measure‚ the WHC and the WRHI had undertaken a comprehensive review of all grants and activities and no other irregularities had been identified‚ it said.
It added: “Wits entities will continue to work with all relevant parties to finalise the matter. The management of this case demonstrates that the University will deal decisively with any illegal activity‚ including fraud.
“Wits remains a leading research-intensive university on the African continent with significant support from corporates‚ individual donors‚ trusts and foundations for over 95 years. The Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute remains one of the leading research institutes in its field in the world producing important work that saves and betters the lives of millions every day.”