Pastor's wife Sonya Joubert accused of 'hiding' in NZ to escape $50m Telkom fraud charges in South Africa

13 April 2017

Telecoms

Sonya Joubert lives in Tauranga, but is wanted in South Africa for her alleged part in a $50m fraud case.

Here in New Zealand, Sonya Joubert's friends and neighbours know her as the friendly wife of a former church pastor.

But South African police have this week revealed they want to extradite her to stand trial for allegedly stealing $50 million from a big telecommunications company, and going on the run.

The nation's elite police crime-fighting unit, The Hawks, have launched a manhunt for Joubert, 43, who they say is "hiding" in New Zealand.

Joubert's attorney in Auckland, Chris Patterson, said his client denied any wrongdoing and she would not return to South Africa. "There is no extradition treaty between New Zealand and South Africa," said Patterson.

Joubert lives in Tauranga, where her husband works as a manager for the Samaritan's Purse evangelical Christian international aid organisation.

At her five-bedroom home in the neighbourhood of Pyes Pa, Joubert wouldn't come to the door. But her husband Francois Joubert said the matter was ongoing and therefore they didn't want to say anything.

"The couple of times we did say something right at the beginning, people took our words and just twisted it. And the end of the day you look like the bad guy," he said.

"We are so careful of what we can say ... Obviously, it's not true. We are trying to protect her."

On a WhatsApp message yesterday, Sonya Joubert said it was a shame to publish "a lot of hearsay, playing with words and including a dash of sensation by including my family".

"The truth is far less spectacular, much more simple," wrote Joubert. "If you're really interested in the truth, don't look at old news stories, ask the right questions: a warrant of arrest for? Fleeing on what grounds?"

The Hawks allege Joubert and her accomplice, Adriaan van Vuuren, defrauded the company Trudon, a subsidiary of the state-owned Telkom, of R500 million ($50m) over a period of nine years.

Sonya and Francois Joubert, who was a pastor for 22 years, are believed to have moved to New Zealand in 2012. The South African authorities had no idea where she was; they said she had fled the country and was in hiding.

Van Vuuren, who was the IT manager for Trudon, allegedly created fraudulent invoices between 2007 and 2016 to pay a fictitious supplier for IT services required by Trudon on behalf of Telkom.

"Trudon transferred funds into Bites Bee Holding and The Corporate Choice's account owned by Sonya Joubert. Telkom reported a loss of R500 million in total on all transactions made to these two companies," said Hawks spokesperson Captain Ndivhuwo Mulamu.

Bites Bee Holdings and The Corporate Choice were registered solely in Joubert's name in South Africa. She has since registered several new companies under her name in New Zealand, one of which is The Corporate Choice Limited. Read the full article on Stuff NZ here: