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How Thabo Bester made millions from behind bars



Thabo Bester

A glamorous media company, a property scam and a daring prison escape are just some of the things convicted killed and rapist Thabo Bester is accused of. Bester is no stranger to scams and fraud. According to reports he was convicted of fraud at the age of 16 and spent two years behind bars in 2006 before he was released on parole. His prison escape was exposed earlier this year, almost a year after he walked out of Mangaung Prison in May 2022 with the help of his married lover and medical doctor Nandipha Magudumana and prison officials, whom he paid as much as R40 000 to aid in his escape. But how did Bester who has been in prison for ten years make so much money that he could bribe his way to freedom? We look at how Bester made his millions behind bars.


Thabo Bester
Bester was not your average prisoner. With nothing to lose after being convicted and sentenced to life in prison at the age of 25, Bester, according to GroundUp managed to convince prison officials that he needed a personal laptop to study as he had enrolled with a well-known private college. That is where the 21st Century Media was born. The company was made to look like a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox, an American film studio owned by Disney. The company, according to media reports, was responsible for the ‘Women in Media’ conference. To pull off the scam, Bester created a new persona and called himself Tom Motsepe, the company chairman and claimed to be based in New York while he was … in prison.

Thabo Bester

The company was registered under one director Phumudzo Thenga, who was a sole director. After she was implicated in the Bester scam, Thenga, through her lawyers explained that Bester who introduced himself as Tom Motsepe and claimed to be related to the Motsepe family and reached out to her in 2017 through Instagram and showed interest in the community work she was doing claiming to be in the UK and America. “Thereafter, he made various business proposals, one of them being creating 21st Century Media. The second proposal was for rolling out ARVs to disadvantaged communities through Dr Nandipha. During the ‘launch’ of the Women in Media project at the Hilton Hotel in Sandton in 2018, attended by celebrities such as Amanda Du Pont, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Mzwanele Jimmy Manyi, Bester made attendees sing him a birthday song as he claimed that it was his birthday. It’s alleged that he made millions out of the scam.

Thabo Bester

Bester, together with his lover Nandipha, also ran another scam, a construction company they named Arum Properties. It’s alleged that the lovers targeted rich businesswomen to invest in their construction project scam and made them pay millions but never delivered. At the time, Bester had another alias, TK Nkwana. According to reports, he would make video calls and close business deals with his victims while at the Mangaung Correctional Centre without them suspecting anything. After escaping from prison, Bester signed documents using a fake driver’s licence and an ID.

Some of the people he tried to use to make his scam look legit told GroundUp that they met ‘Nkwana’ in July 2022 and he offered to pay for them to fly to Cape Town and take pictures posing in houses supposedly being renovated by Arum Properties. They suspected that something was not right and declined. In August 2022, Arum Properties hosted a Women in Property brunch at Nandipha’s rented mansion in Hyde Park attended by businesswomen. It was reported that attendees were offered services from the company which quoted up to R3 million below other companies in the industry for the construction and renovations of their luxury homes. Clients told GroundUp that administrative processes at the company were sluggish. Line items would be added to invoices without consultation and there would be endless delays. The actual construction was outsourced to subcontractors and very little work was done.

Soon after his arrest, Bester through his lawyers claimed that his assets worth more than R3 billion were seized. In the list of the assets are 14 cars, including a R9.5 million Mercedes-Maybach GLS600, a Bentley Bentayga W12 worth R7 million and a Bentley Continental GT V8 worth R9 million. He also claimed his million bank accounts were frozen by the Assets Forfeit Unit. This was never confirmed by any of the banks or the police.

According to a Sunday Times report, the couple rented properties from 2020 in the upmarket suburbs of Hyde Park, Sandown and Morningside paying as much as R175 000 a month in rent and at five houses in nine months. The report added that Bester left his R1.5 million watch on his bedside when he disappeared with Nandipha from their rented mansion when they were wanted by the police. The convicted murderer and rapist will stand trial next year, together with his lover, her father and nine other suspects who allegedly helped him escape from prison.

Source: Zimoja


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