Ashish Lata Ramgobin, Mahatma Gandhi’s great-granddaughter, has been imprisoned for seven years in jail in a six-million-rand fraud and forgery case.
Ashish Lata Ramgobin was implicated in duping businessman SR Maharaj after the latter paid R6.2 million to her for supposedly ridding import and customs duties for a non-existent consignment from India. SR Maharaj was guaranteed a percentage of profits.
Daughter of well-known rights activists Ela Gandhi and late Mewa Ramgobin, Lata Ramgobin was also denied permission to appeal both the conviction and the sentence by the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court.
When the trial in the case against Lata Ramgobin started in 2015, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had said that Lata Ramgobin purportedly produced falsified receipts and records to persuade investors that three containers of cloth were being shipped in from India.
At that time, Lata Ramgobin was freed on a bail of 50,000 rands.
Lata Ramgobin had met SR Maharaj, director of the New Africa Alliance Footwear Distributors, in August 2015. Maharaj’s company imports and manufactures and sells clothes, linen, and footwear, and also provides finance to other businesses on a profit-share foundation.
Mahatma Gandhi’s great-granddaughter had informed Maharaj that she had imported three containers of linen for the South African Hospital Group NetCare.
NPA spokesperson Natasha Kara said, “Lata Ramgobin said she was experiencing financial difficulties to pay for import costs and customs, and she needed the money to clear the goods at the harbor.”
“She told 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,” the spokesperson said.
Lata Ramgobin “further sent him confirmation from NetCare’s bank account that payment had been made”, Kara said. Maharaj agreed with her owing to Ramgobin’s family credentials and NetCare documents.
He later laid criminal charges upon discovering that the documents were forged.
Ramgobin was the 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 a focus on environmental, societal, and political interests.
Several other descendants of Mahatma 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, in particular, has been internationally recognized for her efforts, including national honors from both India and South Africa.