We ripped off Makro for years. This is how
Inside the scheme that fleeced millions from the much-loved megastore
One of two Makro employees who allegedly hatched a plot to defraud the store out of millions of rands has pleaded guilty – and has detailed how he and his co-accused conducted their schemes.
Jeremy Osman, a merchandise controller at Makro’s Sunninghill offices in Gauteng, is now set to testify in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court (SCCC) in Johannesburg against the man he claims is the alleged mastermind behind the fraud, co-worker and wholesale manager Sacheen Seersagath.
Both men were charged with two counts of corruption and dozens of counts of fraud while they were employed at the megastore.
According to the charge sheet, Seersagath was the wholesale manager at Cellular Buyer.
As part of Makro’s operations, it supplies prepaid airtime vouchers, starter packs and cellular handsets to its cellular wholesalers.
“Cell C and Vodacom … pay rebates to Makro in the form of activation bonuses and ongoing revenue earned for each starter pack sold through Makro and its cellular wholesalers … Makro, in turn, pays a percentage of the abovementioned rebates received to its cellular wholesalers each month as agreed by them,” the charge sheet reads.
These rebates were based on “deal sheets” that specify the purchase price, activation bonus and the ongoing revenue percentages.
Osman was responsible for loading the rebates on to Makro’s systems, as well as preparing the deal sheets and calculating them.
Osman, in his written guilty plea submitted to the SCCC, wrote how in 2008 he had started to experience financial pressure “for personal reasons”. He claimed Seersagath was aware of this and that he informed Osman to start manipulating the invoices for a wholesaler called Cellular Expressions (CE).
“[Seersagath] would instruct me to invoice R5 airtime vouchers to Cellular Expressions at R4.48. The effect of this was that Cellular Expressions paid less than what they agreed, resulting in a loss to Makro,” he said, claiming that the company would save about R50,000 per order.
Seersagath informed Osman, he claims, that CE had agreed to pay him to manipulate the invoices and that half of this money would go to Osman.
Eventually, Seersagath allegedly told him he had come to a similar agreement with Taitz Cellular and that the wholesalers would also start buying starter packs from Makro.
He would then reduce the price of the starter packs, sometimes by as much as 90% – from R1 to 10c.
“At one stage, the cellphone wholesalers were able to get starter packs for 10c legitimately, and there was no longer a benefit for them in reducing the starter pack prices for them … Mr Seersagath agreed with them that he would inflate the activation bonuses due to them as well as increase the percentage of ongoing revenue to them,” he wrote.
Osman admits he received hundreds of thousands of rands from Seersagath as part of the deal over the four years that this continued.
“I admit that I utilised the money for my own personal benefit. I admit that my conduct amounts to corruption,” he wrote.
While Osman’s sentencing proceedings are set to continue later in May, his co-accused has pleaded innocent to the crimes, though a date for his criminal trial had yet to be set.