Hawks still haven’t lit fire under businesswoman over braai-logs loan
Case has bounced between Hawks and NPA as Lorraine Masipa has failed to repay a cent of an R48.5m IDC loan
Three years after the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) laid criminal charges against prominent Gauteng businesswoman Lorraine Masipa, the case is still under investigation.
Masipa has not repaid a cent of a R48.5m loan the corporation gave her in 2015 to kick-start a green energy company, Semona Eco, making compressed biomass logs, mainly for braais.
The plant was to produce 5,000 tons of biomass logs per annum, and employ 45 people.
The IDC laid a criminal charge against her in May 2016 and the Hawks handed over their investigation to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) later that year. There it remained until February 2019, when it was sent back to the Hawks for further investigation.
NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said the delay was “due to evidence gathering as these investigations, like in most commercial crimes, are of a complex nature”.
Masipa is chief executive of Semona International, a company with subsidiaries dealing with oiI, gas and energy.
When she defaulted on her repayments in 2016, the IDC found there was no factory to show for the money; nor was there allegedly anything left of the millions.
In its 2014/15 annual report, the IDC said: “Semona Eco was funded to establish manufacturing facilities in Midrand vicinity to manufacture compressed biomass logs mainly for the braai and fireplace market. The logs are branded as Eco Blaze and are manufactured from recycled waste.”
IDC spokesperson Zama Luthuli told Times Select that Masipa hadn’t repaid a cent to the funding parastatal since it laid charges against Semona Eco.
Gauteng Hawks spokesperson Captain Ndivhuwo Mulamu confirmed the case was back with them, but said the investigation was not yet complete.
In 2017, former IDC chief executive Geoffrey Qhena was called to account in parliament’s National Assembly about the R58.6m (the original loan amount plus interest) that Masipa failed to pay back to the IDC.
Qhena said at the time they had obtained a judgment against Semona Eco and its guarantors.
Luthuli said the IDC has instituted a sequestration order against Masipa. Proceedings had not been concluded.
Masipa could not be reached for comment to confirm whether her company was liquated or not.
Ask if the IDC was doing any business with Masipa currently, Luthuli said it was unlikely. “Once criminal charges have been laid against a client or director, the IDC places such individuals on the delinquent register pending conclusion of any outstanding issue. As such, IDC policy prohibits any delinquent client or director from conducting business with the corporation, and this policy is not exception to Ms Masipa.”Besides having offices in Johannesburg and Dubai, her company is also registered in Mauritius and Switzerland.Times Select has sent questions to Masipa’s three e-mail addresses and text messages were sent to her cellphone, but she failed to respond. Her Semona International office landline has been off constantly.