A Durban husband and wife found guilty of swindling millions of rand from the KZN Blind and Deaf Society have been sentenced to jail.

The wife, Ruvanya Ramiah, 31, was sentenced to an effective 15 years behind bars, while her husband, Ayush Rambally, 32, was jailed for 8 years.

The couple pleaded guilty to fraud and theft in June last year.

Ramiah pleaded guilty to 354 counts of fraud, amounting to over R12.6 million, while Rambally pleaded guilty to 79 counts of theft, amounting to about R1.7m.

In her plea, Ramiah, who worked as a finance officer for the society from March 2012 to February 2019, said she committed fraud by paying herself inflated salaries, twice and sometimes more often in the same month.

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According to NPA spokesperson Natasha Kara, the accused said her duties included salary payments and general payments, and she had access to and control of the Society’s banking accounts.

“She also created false payments to suppliers and fabricated evidence to support those payments. The money went into her bank account and that of her husband.”

Rambally said in his plea that he took the money knowing very well that he was not entitled to it, as he was neither an employee nor a creditor of the Society.

In admitting that his actions were wrong, he admitted to using Society’s money for his and his wife’s purposes.

In aggravation of the sentence, senior state advocate Andre Carlitz led the evidence of Veetha Sewkuran, who is the president of the KZN Blind and Deaf Society.

“Sewkuran said that once news of the fraud had gotten out, funders and companies withdrew their funding and association with the Society.

“She said that the lack of funds resulted in them retrenching 15 staff members who then took the Society to the Council for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA), thus causing the Society further financial problems.

“Sewkuran mentioned that Ramiah was in a position of trust and she betrayed that trust,” said Kara.

“The fraud committed has impacted the reputation of the Society, with the Society needing to prove itself as it is still under scrutiny from donors and the public. She said that the Society may have to close its doors should it not recover from its loss.”

In handing down the sentence, the court found that the couple did not show remorse and pleaded guilty due to the overwhelming evidence against them.

“The court concluded that their motive was for greed and not need, as they were receiving an income and Ramiah held a full-time job.”

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