On June 7, 2021, Mahatma Gandhi’s great-granddaughter was sentenced to seven years in jail by a court in Durban, South Africa. Her sentencing came in connection to a fraud and forgery case involving more than $400,000, from 2015.
According to South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the 56-year-old Ramgobin was accused of providing forged invoices and documents to convince potential investors that three containers of linen were being shipped in from India. She was accused of defrauding businessman SR Maharaj, when he gave her a 6 million rand (around $440,000) advance payment for clearing import and customs duties, and after she promised a share of large profits for a non-existent consignment from India.
Ramgobin was also refused the right to appeal both the conviction and sentence by the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court.
Ramgobin is the daughter of prominent human rights activist Ela Gandhi. Speaking to South African media, Gandhi said her daughter was positive and trying to stay strong, but she had not yet visited her in prison.
“Since the magistrate refused her application, her lawyers are applying for leave to appeal to the high court. My daughter is strong, we stand behind her and are supporting her […] We, as a family, are coping under the circumstances and my daughter is also trying to cope,” she said. She added that she was unable to comment further on the case.
Ramgobin ran a company called Global Services, and reportedly told Maharaj that she had won a contract to supply the Netcare group — a major private health care company in South Africa — with bedsheets and pillows. She claimed to have imported three containers of linen from India for the contract. Maharaj discovered that Ramgobin did not have such a contract with 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 harbour.”
“She told [Maharaj] that she needed 6.2 million rand. 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,” she added. Ramgobin “sent him confirmation from Netcare’s bank account that payment had been made,” Kara said.
Maharaj reportedly made this agreement with her owing to Ramgobin’s family credentials and the falsified Netcare documents. Maharaj filed a criminal complaint against her upon learning that the documents were forged.
Given that the South African government, and the Gandhi family has publicly commented on this case, we rate the claim as “True.”