When one hears the term forgery, one immediately thinks about fraudulent behaviour, but, it is so important to draw a clear distinction between the concept of forgery and fraud. In South Africa, fraud occurs when a person makes misrepresentation which can cause prejudice, but with forgery, it goes a step further by actually producing false documentation to that fact. For example, one could forge a signature on a document, or create a false licence or even forge an artwork to sell for money.
The crime of forgery in South Africa is a common law crime, meaning it does not come from a statutory background but instead, it is derived from the courts and case law and historical legal influences. However, the accepted definition is that “forgery consists of unlawfully and intentionally making a false document to the actual or potential prejudice of another.”
Now if one were to present these forged documents, one would be guilty of the crime of uttering of forged documents. Therefore it is one thing to create a false document, and another to actually make use of it – but both actions are a crime in South Africa. It should also be noted that the intended theft or prejudice need not take place for there to be a crime. Here the intention, an element of the crime, is simply to create the forgery and that is already a crime in itself. In some cases, it is possible for forgery to be classified as corruption under the Prevention of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004.
It is important to know that you can also be an accomplice to forgery and therefore it is imperative to report cases of forgery where they are suspected if the forgery is more than R100 000. For example, if you work in a bank and suspect someone of depositing false notes to that amount, make sure to alert someone immediately. The crime of forgery is very active in South Africa, and forgers are becoming more and more creative.
The Financial Intelligence Centre Act, No 38 of 2001 is also contributing to the prevention of forgery in South Africa by creating a duty to report financial fraud including forged documents.
If you suspect that you may have been a victim of a forgery or you need advice regarding the law around forgery in South Africa, please do not hesitate to reach out to us and we will put you in touch with a criminal attorney that can be of assistance.
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