Woman Alleged to Have Stolen Millions From Gardener

In the news this week, a Durban gardener in South Africa was allegedly swindled out of a R58 million (about £4.03 million) inheritance.

When Charlotte Davies died in 2012, it came as a surprise to her gardener that she’d bequeathed most of her estate to her neighbour, Adline Pillay, and left him only R600,000. Mrs Davies had no children or any living relatives in South Africa and her husband had died years before her. Another neighbour described her as a recluse whose only regular human contact was with her gardener, Sabelo Mdlovu.

A four year police investigation included investigating bank statements, offshore accounts and using experts to analyse handwriting. As a result, Pillay and her attorneys, Rodney Reddy and P. Ramjathan appeared in Durban Commercial Crime Court last Thursday to answer to charges including fraud, forgery, theft and money laundering.

Proceeds of crime

They were arrested on the same day that the Assets Forfeiture Unit (AFU) successfully applied to attach a R5.8 million property in the upmarket suburb of La Lucia and freeze more than R2.3 million held in a Standard Bank account. The AFU alleges the property and the money are the proceeds of crime.

The deputy director of public prosecutions filed a notice of motion saying that Pillay, with the help of her attorneys, allegedly forged Mrs Davies’ will so she could inherit her multi-million rand estate.

Mdlovu laid the charges against Pillay with the help of a lawyer called Zondagh, who was able to track down an old signature of Mrs Davies. A handwriting expert then alleged the 2008 signature did not match the will where Pillay was made executor of Mrs Davies’ estate.

Zondagh told the Daily News in South Africa that Mdlovu had approached him in 2014 because he couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d been swindled. He’d been the one to discover Mrs Davies’ death, having turned up for work on15 September, 2012 and not getting any response when he knocked repeatedly on the door. Her will was discovered in a safe in the house, and Pillay and Mdlovu went to Rodney Reddy & Associates, the firm that had prepared the will. The document had been signed in 2010.

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Signature analysis

A forensic expert employed by the police analysed the signatures Mrs Davies had written in 2008 and the same time she allegedly signed the will and found it to be forged.

In this will, Pillay had been made executor and Mdlovu was to receive R600,000 to pay for his children’s education. The rest of the estate went to Pillay. At the court on Thursday, Pillay, Reddy and Ramjathan were given R2,000 bail. The commercial crime court case will start on February 4.