Tuesday, May 1, 2012
The Luxurious Life of Sharemax Bosses
This is the luxury life of the two top managers of collapsed property syndication company Sharemax – while thousands of investors have lost most, if not all, of their money.
City Press has traced about R250 million of assets owned by trusts and companies of Sharemax’s former managing director, Willie Botha, and his marketing manager, Andre Brand.
Botha and Brand were, for almost a decade, at the helm of Sharemax as about 40 000 people invested an estimated R5 billion in the company’s 50 property syndicates.
The Reserve Bank ruled in May last year that Sharemax had contravened the Banks Act and had illegally collected deposits from investors.
City Press can reveal this week that one of Brand’s acquaintances, Wietz Nell, has handed incriminating documents and information to the police’s Hawks unit.
The Hawks would not say whether they have launched an investigation against Botha and Brand.
In the documents, Brand accused Botha in a memorandum of illegally pocketing at least R9?million of money intended for investors.
Brand also alleged that Botha had, over a period of four years, pocketed R53 million in “commission” from a Sharemax front company. Brand demanded a R24.5 million share from Botha.
Botha this week ignored multiple attempts to get comment.
Brand said this week that Nell had obtained the documents dishonestly, but he did not deny their veracity.
Brand said that he had in the meantime cleared his complaint with Botha and that he withdrew any allegations against him. He said he now believed the money was paid legally to Botha.
Tomorrow, a group of Sharemax investors plan to bring an urgent court application to declare Sharemax bankrupt, and to freeze the assets of Botha and Brand.
Among the assets that the investors want frozen is Botha’s luxury yacht, which he keeps in the Egyptian port of Hurghada in the Red Sea.
The Italian-designed Scuba Scene is apparently worth between R120 million and R150 million, and is wholly owned by the Willem Botha Family Trust.
The boat has its own website and is described as “43 metres of classic nautical beauty and luxury”.
It says the Scuba Scene is a “true marvel of design, technology and style to provide all its passengers with an aesthetically pleasing masterpiece”.
The investors also want to ask the high court to prevent Brand from selling his 3 000 hectare game farm near Thabazimbi in Limpopo.
The game farm, Thaba Motswere, has been valued at R79 million, and has giraffe, eland, kudu, gemsbok, cheetah and leopard.
The farm’s lodge alone cost Brand an estimated R20 million to build and resembles a five-star hotel with all possible amenities.
Brand is desperate to sell the farm and even considered a price of R21.5 million last month.
Botha has an equally luxurious game farm in Marken in Limpopo that is thought to be worth even more as it has the Big Five – elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and cheetah.
Botha lives in a double-storey villa in the exclusive Silver Lakes Estate in Pretoria. Brand recently signed a contract to sell his mansion in Mooikloof in Pretoria for R15 million.
Botha was in August “relieved” of his duties and resigned as director. Brand has also since left the company.
In September, the Reserve Bank put Sharemax under statutory management, ordering Sharemax to repay its investors, but there was no money left to do so.
The documents that City Press obtained shows that after Botha and Brand had left Sharemax, they were still paid R15 million commission.
The company that is managing Sharemax on behalf of the Reserve Bank, Frontier Asset Management and Investments, did not respond to queries this week.
A forensic auditor, André Prakke, studied the documents obtained by City Press and concluded that there was evidence of money laundering, theft and fraud.
Prakke says that 80% of the money that was invested in Sharemax is gone.
Prakke has investigated Sharemax for many years and has submitted statements about the company to the high court.
He says that the commission that Brand refers to in his memos to Botha has never been revealed in any of Sharemax’s property portfolios.
- City Press
Mdluli prosecutor shot at
Mdluli prosecutor suspended
Prosecutor hits back at NPA
Mdluli’s startling comeback
NPA denies Mdluli, Breytenbach link
Senior officers ‘fear Mdluli’s return’
Suspended anti-corruption prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach was shot at three weeks ago while driving home.
Breytenbach, who prosecuted crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli until the case was withdrawn by her superiors in December, was suspended by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) this morning.
She told City Press she is convinced the shooting was related to her work.
"I have been followed for some time. It happened late in the evening of April 11 on the N14 while I was driving home. Two shots were fired, but both missed."
Breytenbach said she was still being followed. She reported the shooting to the Hawks.
Last Wednesday morning two BMW motorcycles tried to force her off the road while she was driving home from the gym.
"A metro police car came by and they backed off," she said.
Breytenbach is the head of the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit in Pretoria. Apart from the Mdluli matter, she was also working on the arms deal investigation and on a mining rights case involving Kumba and politically connected Imperial Crown Trading (ICT).
Her lawyer Gerhard Wagenaar confirmed her suspension by acting NPA head Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba today, saying the official reason given by the NPA was that his client allegedly abused her powers in the Kumba fraud case.
Breytenbach was the prosecutor in a case concerning the awarding of mining rights at Sishen to ICT. Kumba subsequently laid a charge of fraud against ICT, and Breytenbach was appointed as prosecutor.
ICT's directors and legal representatives subsequently complained to the NPA that Breytenbach was seen as being too close to Kumba and its legal representatives.
Breytenbach denies any wrongdoing.
Her supporters in and outside the NPA believe the Kumba complaint is a red herring and that her persistence to prosecute Mdluli led to her suspension by her bosses in the NPA.
NPA spokesperson Bulelwa Makeke confirmed Breytenbach's suspension. "She has been provided with reasons for her suspension after she was given more than enough time to respond.
"The next step will be an internal disciplinary hearing where all allegations will be addressed substantively."
The NPA denied that Breytenbach's suspension was linked to her insistence that the Mdluli case continued.
Last week, Breytenbach provided Jiba with a memorandum, outlining her reasons why the Mdluli case should never have been withdrawn.
- City Press