Suing a Degree-Forging Employee for R2.2m

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive” (Sir Walter Scott, quoted in the judgment below)

It’s a sad fact of life in today’s business world that as an employer you must remain constantly on guard against the dangers of “CV fraud”.

First prize of course must always be prevention – verify all claimed qualifications and work experience, accept nothing on trust. But if you do get caught out, our courts will help you if they can, as witnessed by a recent High Court case.

The “graduate” who forged a B.Sc degree
  • An employee was found to have been employed, and to have been accepted into his employer’s graduate development programme, on the basis of forged qualifications in the form of a forged B.Sc degree (in Chemical Engineering) and a falsified academic record.
  • His fraud was only discovered after some 8 years, and when he resigned (after disciplinary proceedings against him began) his employer reclaimed the +R2.2m it had paid him over the years.
  • The employee objected, claiming that he had provided value to his employer in his work. The Court was unimpressed, no doubt at least in part because of the employer’s evidence that, as it was a bulk supplier of water to millions of people, having an unqualified person working for it (performing calculations on the type and quantity of chemicals to be added to the water) “could potentially have incredibly serious consequences for the general populace.”
“Fraud unravels everything” – goodbye R2.2m and a pension fund

Held the Court (quoting from a well-known English case on fraud): “No court in this land will allow a person to keep an advantage which he has obtained by fraud. No judgment of a court, no order of a Minister, can be allowed to stand if it has been obtained by fraud. Fraud unravels everything.” (Emphasis added)

The employee, said the Court, “set out to deceive and wove his web accordingly. He achieved his goal. He has now become entangled in a web that he alone devised and cannot now be heard to complain of the consequences that must follow.”

Not only must he now repay every cent of the R2,203,565.04 he earned through his fraud, plus interest, but his pension benefits (which are normally secure from creditor claims) can be used for the purpose. To rub a final dose of salt into his wounds, he must also pay legal costs on the punitive attorney and client scale – no doubt the Court’s findings as to his untruthfulness as a witness contributing to that result.

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