Ironically, while MK Gandhi’s train journey to Pretoria in South Africa changed his life and in a way started India’s obsession with Gandhi style ‘Ahimsa’ to deal with atrocities, his 56-year-old great-granddaughter, Lata Ramgobin, has been convicted in a six-million Rand fraud and forgery case and sentenced to 7 years of jail on Monday by a Durban court.
She was accused of scamming businessman, SR Maharaj for getting loan of R6.2 million from him for clearing import and Customs duties for a non-existent consignment from India. Maharaj was promised a share of profits in return for the loan.
Lata Ramgobin is the daughter of acclaimed human rights activists Ela Gandhi and late Mewa Ramgobind. Lata Ramgobin has been also refused leave to appeal both the conviction and the sentence by the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court.
The trial against Lata Ramgobin started in 2015. Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had stated in the trial that she allegedly provided forged invoices and documents to convince potential investors that three containers of linen were being shipped in from India.
In 2015, Lata Ramgobin was released on a bail of 50,000 rand. According to court documents, Lata Ramgobin met Maharaj, director of the New Africa Alliance Footwear Distributors, in August 2015.
The company imports and manufactures and sells clothing, linen and footwear. Maharaj’s company also provides finance to other companies on a profit-share basis. Lata Ramgobin had told Maharaj that she had imported three containers of linen for the South African Hospital Group NetCare.
“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.
“She advised 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,” she said.
Lata Ramgobin “further sent him confirmation from NetCare’s bank account that payment had been made”, Kara said.
Because of Ramgobin’s family credentials and NetCare documents, Maharaj had entered into a written agreement with her for the loan.
Later Maharaj found that the documents were forged and NetCare had no arrangements with Lata Ramgobin,. so he pressed criminal charges against her.
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 focus on environmental, societal and political interests.”
Many descendants of MK 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 is internationally recognised for her work in the field of human rights and has received several honours from India and South Africa.
Notably, while MK Gandhi and his descendants are treated with great respect and adulation by the secularists and mainstream media despite several controversies surrounding MK Gandhi himself and his family, stalwarts like Veer Savarkar have been slandered by the mainstream media despite having highest moral character due to their hatred for Hinduism and Hindutva (Hinduness).
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