Auction Alliance paid off bank officials, says report – paying referral commissions to bank officials at Absa, Nedbank, RNB/FNB and Investec.
WHILE mandated to market and sell bulk properties on behalf of Absa, Auction Alliance allegedly acquired some of the residential units for itself without disclosing this to the bank.
Auction Alliance is also accused, in the Greyling forensic report that Business Day has seen, of paying referral commissions to bank officials at Absa, Nedbank, RNB/FNB and Investec.
The report is the product of a forensic probe carried out by Allan Greyling and his team at Accountants at Law (A@L) in 2012. It has been buried away from the public eye ever since.
IN THE dying days of December 2011, billionaire heiress Wendy Appelbaum decided to add another wine farm to her property portfolio when she bid for Dave King’s liquidated Quoin Rock farm. But she was hoodwinked on the auction floor by Rael Levitt, of Auction Alliance, who attempted to drive up the bids by placing a phony bidder in her path. Appelbaum became wise to him and over the course of the next few weeks, she attracted considerable attention to the attempted fraud.
The media then moved in and began to dig around Levitt and the firm he had started in the mid-1990s. In the middle of February 2012, a newspaper report that Levitt attempted, unsuccessfully, to interdict, exposed years of dodgy dealings that linked bank staff, liquidators and attorneys to a money-making racket, allegedly orchestrated by Levitt and Auction Alliance.
Purchasers have increasing difficulty to obtain financing for the purchase of farms and other agricultural land. Many sellers of these properties consider granting the purchaser a bond for the purchase amount, to be paid off over a period of time. Worse, some accept an acknowledgement of indebtedness and consent to judgment as sufficient protection, prior to shaking hands and signing off on the transfer agreements.
Previously, the mere registration of the bond or the notice confirming the instalment sale of a property registered at the Deeds Office was sufficient. Together with the required written agreement it constituted protection to the incidental money lender in the event of a defaulting purchaser.
The National Credit Act has changed everything. The Act provides, inter alia, that in any credit agreement where the credit amount exceeds R500 000 (five hundred thousand Rand), the lender is to be registered as a credit provider. This includes the occasional private farm seller, even if it is a once-off arrangement with no intention by the seller to provide credit to any other person ever again. Failure to register as a credit provider prior to a transaction that can be defined as a “credit transaction” is a transgression of the Act.
Should the credit provider not be registered and the purchaser defaults on the payment agreement, section 89(5) of the National Credit Act is unequivocally prescriptive on how the courts are to deal with such circumstances. The credit agreement is void as from the date it was entered into. The credit provider must refund all payments made in terms of the agreement together with stipulated interest. Most importantly, all purported rights of the credit provider to recover any money paid or the goods that were delivered to the consumer, are cancelled, or the property forfeited to the state, unless a court finds that such forfeiture will unjustly enrich the purchaser.
Many sellers, and even attorneys, are either unaware of this provision or blatantly flaunt the requirement as they “trust” the purchaser and “know” that the full repayment will be made, including the interest. The problem only manifests when the worst case scenario does occur and the well-known and trusted purchaser defaults on the payments. Many of the sellers who acted as credit providers relied on such repayments and interest either to fund another farm purchase or worse, their retirement.
The Constitutional Court recently considered the validity of this section of the National Credit Act and specifically of the clause relating to forfeiture of the property to the state in the light of the Bill of Rights, regarding the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of property and the so-called Limitation clause. J van der Westhuizen delivered a majority judgement on 10 December 2012 which declared the arbitrary forfeiture of property to the state prescribed in section 89(5)(c) of the National Credit Act to be inconsistent with section 25(1) of the constitution, and thus invalid.
This judgement should, however, sound an urgent alarm to any and all unregistered credit-providing farm sellers. The intention of the National Credit Act is to discourage the provision of credit outside the framework set by the legislature. The Act thus has to punish those that do not comply with the requirements thereof, and the punishment is severe.
Should the farm seller therefore not have registered as a credit provider, and the purchaser defaults on his payments, such seller is at risk – a very real and serious risk. Unless a court orders that the circumstances will unjustly enrich the purchaser, such seller may not only forfeit all payments and interest, but will have to obtain a court order that the seller is entitled to recover the farm from the defaulting purchaser.
If the credit agreement is unlawful as from inception in terms of the National Credit Act, the agreement cannot be enforced and the defaulting party cannot be compelled to perform. In our law, pursuance of such agreement must then be made in terms of unjustified enrichment, and specifically the conditio ob turpem vel iniustam causam. In short, the requirements are that the ownership must have passed with transfer, transfer must have taken place in terms of an unlawful agreement, and the claimant must tender back everything received.
However, to be successful the claimant must be able to prove that he acted free of turpitude and show that the actions were not dishonourable. The banker-playing credit-providing farm seller might not forfeit the farm as the court’s discretion has been unconstitutionally curtailed in section 89(5)(c), but is still far from the position he could have been in had he simply registered as a credit provider.
Civil obedience regarding the legislation of the country creates a stable, safe, just and equitable society with a strong economy and an affinity with investors. Compliance with the National Credit Act not only ensures confidence in immovable property as an investment, but will protect those who want to play banker.
For further reading see National Credit Regulator vs Fillippus Albertus Opperman and others, case number CCT34/12  ZACC 29 and case law quoted by both the majority judgement and descending judgment written by J Cameron.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. —
Mnr. Piet Liebenberg, voorheen voorsitter van Die Sakebank en mnr. Willem Boshoff, voorheen uitvoerende hoof van die bank, is die afgelope week in twee hofgedinge weens die beweerde bedrieglike of roekelose hantering van sake by Die Sakebank gedagvaar.
Die eise deur twee PSG-filiale, Axiam en Capitec, bedra R147 miljoen plus rente.
Verdere dagvaardings teen bekende sakelui, wat ook na bewering betrokke was, word nog voorberei.
Liebenberg en Boshoff het Die Sakebank op die been gebring met die slagspreuk “goeie etiek is goeie sake”.
Toe die bank in 1998 genoteer is, was daar ‘n stormloop om sy aandele te bekom, glo vanweë Liebenberg se groot aansien onder beleggers.
Liebenberg is ook ‘n bekende in kerkkringe en het in 1999 op die nasionale kerkeberaad gesê sakeleiers het “Bill Clintons” geword deur weg te draai van die basiese waardes van die Bybel .
Die Sakebank het vir die jaar tot einde Maart 1999 ‘n wins van R45 miljoen getoon met aandeelhouersgeld van R474 miljoen.
Die PSG-groep het Die Sakebank in 2000 oorgeneem. Kort daarná is bevind dat die sake van Die Sakebank “chaoties” was. Pleks daarvan dat die verwagte netto batewaarde R150 miljoen bedra het, was die maatskappy niks werd nie.
Die aandeelprys was in dié stadium 5c teenoor sy hoogtepunt van R17,00.
Mnr. Alec Erwin, minister van handel en nywerheid, het mnre. Mervyn King en Harvey Wainer verlede jaar opdrag gegee om ondersoek in te stel na verskeie moontlike ongerymdhede by Die Sakebank wat tot sy mislukking kon gelei het. Destyds is gesê daar sal na die finansiering van aandele-opsies vir direkteure en Die Sakebank se betrokkenheid by die mislukte Macmed gekyk word. Ander mense wat destyds in verband met die ondersoek genoem is, sluit in mnr. Desmond Smith, gewese uitvoerende hoof van Sanlam en waarnemende voorsitter van Die Sakebank se ouditkomitee, asook ‘n lid van sy vergoedingskomitee, en dr. Malesela Motlatla en mnr. Leonard Fine, albei lede van die oudit- en vergoedingskomitee.
‘n Verslag is voltooi, maar dit is nog nie bekend gemaak nie.
Die Sakebank is sedert 1998 tot TBBH, Axiam en toe Capitec Bank herdoop.
In die eerste saak teen Liebenberg en Boshoff beweer Axiam dat Liebenberg en Boshoff in 1998 en 1999 hul pligte wederregtelik verontagsaam het deur lenings van R60 miljoen aan mnr. Jan Louw toe te staan. Die lenings is na bewering nie terugbetaal nie.
Louw was die stigter en baas van ProEquity, ‘n batebestuurder, wat betrokke was by die aanvanklike mislukte hotelprojek by Oudekraal in die Kaap.
Die Sakebank het ProEquity oorgeneem en Louw het ‘n direkteur van Die Sakebank geword. Sedertdien is ‘n vonnis van R160 miljoen teen Louw verkry.
In die tweede saak beweer Capitec dat Liebenberg en Boshoff, as direkteure van Capitec Bank, in 1999 bedrieglik of roekeloos opgetree het deurdat hulle toegelaat het dat sekere aandele as sekuriteit vir ‘n gerief van R50 miljoen van Absa Bank dien, wetende dat dié aandele onderhewig was aan ‘n ooreenkoms wat dit verbied.
Capitec beweer dat mnr. Richard Foyn, ‘n direkteur van Capitec Bank, die gerief met Absa beding en die aandele aan Absa oorgedra het. Foyn is ook ‘n verweerder in die tweede saak.
Voordat hy Die Sakebank gestig het, het Liebenberg verskeie poste in die bankwese beklee.
Robin Hood to the rescue!
A whole lot has been written about Rael Levitt the embattled CEO of now disgraced company Auction Alliance. The whole scandal erupted after a complaint was lodged by billionaire businesswoman Wendy Appelbaum with the Consumer Complaints commission. Stories have appeared in both the mainstream and financial press. Levitt stepped down as CEO which has added further fuel to the fires that are raging around both the auction industries and financial and legal professions. It seems that this would be a battle of Goliath versus Goliath and would not have any impact on the man in the street. Not so however.
It’s a veritable can of worms that has left many people all the way down this particular food chain feeling very uncomfortable and nervous. Who wouldn’t be with SARS and various other bodies all rallying around to uncover the truth? It’s the stuff of good gangster movies and who knows, perhaps a movie in the making. Most people would simply shrug and walk away because they feel they have no recourse against this issue and trying to get their story heard let alone justice being served.
South Africans have lost billions through corrupt auctions – but now detectives are ready to pounce on the guilty.
For decades the authorities have turned a blind eye to fraud and corruption in sheriffs’ offices, particularly in the area of sales in execution. But last month, in the first of a series of country-wide raids, police and SARS swooped on six sheriffs’ premises in the greater Durban area.
You ask why, well, their hands were forced.