A South African provincial court has extended the bail of four suspects accused of tender fraud and corruption relating to former state-owned South African Express (EXY, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), pending the start of their trial on May 13, 2024, reports South Africa's Sunday World newspaper.

Tebogo van Wyk, Nothando Dube, Sipho Levy Phiri, and Thabang Mohlokoleng face 34 counts in the Molopo Magistrate's Court in Mahikeng, including fraud, corruption, money laundering, and violating South Africa's Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). Also being charged are three companies, Batsamai Investment Holdings, Sevilex Investment Holdings, and Lavao Estevao (Pty) Ltd.

As reported, the accused were already granted bail on September 30, 2022, ranging from ZAR30,000 rand (USD1,670) to ZAR500,000 (USD28,000).

The arrests followed an investigation by the South African Police Service's "Hawks" Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation and charges brought by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) following findings by the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector.

In 2014, the North West provincial government made available a subsidy of ZAR400 million rand (USD21 million) to reintroduce commercial air services to the province's two airports at Mmabatho and Sun City. It is alleged the province irregularly appointed SA Express to render the services without following proper supply chain management procedures.

Between 2015 and 2017, the province allegedly paid SA Express ZAR183 million (USD9.5 million), of which ZAR51 million (USD2.6 million) is claimed to have been siphoned off into intermediate groundhandling companies owned by Dube and Phiri. It is alleged that the deal was riddled with procurement irregularities and that monies were paid for services not rendered.

Van Wyk, Dube, and Phiri stand accused of having signed the contract on behalf of the respective companies. Mohlokoleng allegedly inked the agreement on behalf of the provincial Department of Transport as its then accounting officer and head of department.

According to the NPA's Northwest Province spokesman Henry Mamothame the office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions has authorised more charges of racketeering to be added to the charge sheet, and for the matter to be centralised as some offences were committed in Gauteng province.

The South African government has blamed deep-rooted corruption and bad management for the state-owned carrier's final liquidation on September 15, 2022, following the failure of a second sale attempt.

During the insolvency inquiry, key SA Express directors and executives were subpoenaed but applied to the South African High Court to stay out of the insolvency inquiry. They were first subpoenaed in March 2021 to give evidence in terms of South Africa's Companies Act concerning financial and operational impropriety at SA Express, which used to function as a regional feeder to SAA.