Ashish Lata Ramgobin appeared in the Durban Magistrate's Court yesterday on charges of theft, fraud and forgery.
Self-employed Ramgobin is alleged to have defrauded two local businessmen of more than 11 million rands (USD 831,380) by claiming that she had secured a tender to import bedding from India for the private hospital group Netcare.
According to Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi of the elite fraud investigation unit known as the Hawks, Ramgobin allegedly provided forged invoices and documents to convince the investors that three containers of linen were being shipped in from India.
A businessman named as SR Maharaj is said to have provided 6.2 million rands with a promise of a share of large profits after Ramgobin requested this from him, allegedly to clear import and customs duties for the non-existent consignment.
A second unnamed businessman allegedly advanced 5.2 million rands under similar pretences. Ramgobin is the daughter of renowned human rights activist Ela Gandhi and Mewa Ramgobind, who have both played instrumental roles in reviving the Phoenix Settlement established by Gandhi during his tenure in South Africa.
A founder and Executive Director of the Participative Development Initiative at the NGO International Centre for Non-Violence, Ramgobin described herself as "an activist with focus on environmental, societal and political interests."
A number of other South African descendants of Mahatma Gandhi have gained prominence for their efforts in human rights activism over many years, among them Kirti Menon, Satish Dhupelia, and Uma Dhupelia-Mesthrie.
Ela Gandhi in particular has been internationally awarded for her efforts, including national honours from India.