Monday, October 21, 2013

Moepi one of Thuli's men

Moepi one of Thuli's men
SIPHO MASOMBUKA | 22 October, 2013 00:20

File photo
Image by: LAUREN MULLIGAN 25/09/2013 © THE TIMES
Forensic auditor Lawrence Moepi was finalising an investigation for the public protector when he was killed last week, Thuli Madonsela revealed yesterday.

Madonsela would not reveal details of the investigation, saying only that his "fellow investigators are not in a good space right now because we do not know why he [Moepi] died".

She said the investigators were worried about their safety and feared that they would be exposed to danger if details of the investigation were released.

Moepi, head of the forensic services unit at accounting and auditing firm Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo, was shot dead as he got out of his car at the firm's Houghton, Johannesburg, offices on Friday morning.

Madonsela said Moepi worked on several investigations for her office, including contributing to the damning report on Independent Electoral Commission chairman Pansy Tlakula, accused of improper conduct in the multimillion-rand leasing of the IEC headquarters building in Pretoria.

"He supervised the team that worked on the report," she said.

She said the 41-year-old father of two started working at her office in January.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said "no stone will be left unturned" in ensuring that the perpetrators are brought to book.

"Whether it was a hit will be determined by the law-enforcement agencies," he said.

Moepi was reportedly involved in a number of big investigations and was part of the team probing the multibillion-rand government arms deal.

He was also one of the team investigating the sale of labour federation Cosatu's headquarters in Braamfontein for R10-million less than the market value.



Prime council land sold below value saga deepens

Zunaid Moti and buyers approach NPA;

City obtains interdicts to stop transactions.

PRETORIA - The National Prosecuting Authority has been asked to enter the fray in the land sale scandal that rocked the City of Johannesburg last week. City authorities confirmed to The Star newspaper that 33 tracts of municipal land had illegally been transferred into private ownership and that urgent interdicts were being sought to reverse the transfer of these properties. Now the buyers of 25 of the properties have approached the NPA to investigate the matter, in the hope of uncovering the extent of municipal involvement in the deals.

Zamien Investments 45 bought 19 of the properties and Zambrotti Investments 31 bought six as part of a R83.7m deal financed by a group of private partners. This group included businessman Zunaid Moti, who recently became the subject of intense media scrutiny after Realestateweb revealed his company Abalengani owed Investec Bank more than R1bn.

Moti later had another run-in with Realestateweb after a property development deal in Sandton went sour. According to Moti, the latest land deal was financed in his private capacity and had nothing to do with Abalengani, or Investec's efforts to restructure the company's outstanding debt.

Moti was also quick to point out that there were several inaccuracies in the original exposé, published in The Star on Friday. The story claimed that Moti was named a director of both Zamien and Zambrotti and that the properties in question had been bought well below market value. Moti admits to being part of the financing behind the deal, but denies being a director of either company and says that he had no direct involvement in the deal. He adds that the purchase of the property was structured over three phases and that the sale totals published by The Star didn't reflect the actual totals. The first portion of the cash payment was to be paid on transfer, the second on the rezoning of the properties and the third, once the properties were ready to be developed.

The deal was handled (in the main) by Irshad Sulliman, director for Zambrotti and Salim Bobat, director of Zamien. Moti says they were approached by Pretoria attorney Peet Viljoen who informed them that one of his clients, a company called Eildoug Investments had an arrangement with the Johannesburg Municipality to dispose of properties it no longer required.

Once Zamien and Zambrotti expressed an interest in acquiring some of these properties, Sulliman, Viljoen and another Johannesburg-based attorney, Eddie Maringa, allegedly met with officials at the Johannesburg Property Company to discuss the rezoning of the properties once the transfer had taken place.

"Sulliman (along with Viljoen and Maringa) went to the municipality to talk about the rezoning, when the properties had been transferred. And he got a confirmation from the municipality, that they were happy with this deal and what timeline it will take in order to rezone these properties," says Moti. "They went to the City of Joburg Property Company, held a meeting in their boardroom, took minutes of the meeting, got a confirmation in writing that they would support the rezoning pending the transfer of these properties, what more assurance did we need?"

An agitated Moti continues: "For goodness sake, it's not like a motor vehicle that someone steals and turns over to someone else, there's a process involved here, buying a property, transferring it, etc, etc. You can't just transfer a property without the relevant authority. And I am surprised that the municipality has now come along and said they don't know anything."

But this is exactly what the municipality claims. We approached the Johannesburg Property Company, which is responsible for the sale of all municipal land, with the claims that a meeting over the Zamien/Zambrotti property deals had taken place in its offices. JPC Managing Director Helen Botes was adamant that this was not the case.

"To my knowledge and to management's knowledge there have been no meetings in my offices. If they can reveal the officials' names and give me proof that they had meetings with these officials, then I can look into it, but at this point that statement is untrue. There have been no meetings in my offices, there have been no documents signed in these offices. Like I had mentioned previously (to the media), all documentation signed was fraudulent."

Botes also confirmed that interdicts had been obtained to stop the fraudulent transactions, but she would not say against which parties the interdicts had been served.

The JPC has not been very forthcoming about how it would be possible for a fraudster to manage the transfer of municipal property deeds without considerable assistance from within the municipality and/or the deeds office. In a written statement the JPC said: "Various fraudulent methods were apparently used outside the JPC's control and knowledge. All the documentation used which has come to our attention is fraudulent and the signatures found to be forged.

"To the best of our knowledge we have not had any dealings with these companies and we have not sold land to them, neither does a council resolution exist approving of the sale of these properties."

The statement is equally vague on what is being done to prevent future irregular transfers of this nature. "We are working closely with the Deeds Office, amongst other initiatives, to prevent further illegal transfers. At this stage, we are unable to give more detail as this might jeopardise the ongoing investigation."

It goes on to say: "At this stage we would like to take the opportunity to advise the public to be aware that council property may only be sold after council has resolved in a meeting open to the public that the property is not required for basic municipal services and that it is sold at fair market value after approval by the relevant council authorities.

"Despite any alleged signature on a sale or transfer agreement purporting to represent the council the sale, lease or transfer which is done without the required authority is invalid. These transactions have no force and effect and will be investigated and all the necessary legal reaction will be taken."

Moti and his fellow investors are convinced there has been collusion involving officials within the municipality and they want them brought to book. "We obviously view this in a very serious light and we've reported this to the NPA. We obviously want the matter to be investigated, because we are exposed for a large sum of money. After preliminary investigations we are sure that there are other people, who have suffered the same circumstances we face. And I think that the council, the City of Joburg, and its employees have been involved and implicated in this, we have sufficient information to warrant that last statement."

Moti added that they are considering taking their own action against the municipality. "Since this thing happened I have been trying to establish what our risks are and whether or not we need to take counter applications against the municipality or bring full charges.

"We cannot be held responsible if the City of Joburg has fraudulent people within their employment who are misrepresenting (facts) to the public. I mean those people must be brought to book and these Eildoug guys, we've been trying to get hold of them for the last while. Since we've had the application, Mr Africa (one of Eildoug's directors) has become elusive. Mr [Peet] Viljoen has been representing him all the time and has given us the assurance that the City of Joburg has given them the authority to transfer the property to us."

Realestateweb's own efforts to reach the directors of Eildoug - the company which apparently brokered the land deal with the City of Joburg - also proved unsuccessful. We contacted Ledbury Accounting Services, a company appointed as the secretary to Eildoug. According to Ledbury owner Corne Joubert, they have not been informed of any meetings conducted in terms of the Companies Act, since Eildoug was formed.

He claimed that they had received several instructions from Johannesburg attorney Eddie Maringa. "(This ranged) from the formation of CCs, the formation of PTYs, either to his requirements or the requirements of this clients and as such we execute on those instructions"

Corne added that other than the formation of Eildoug from a shelf company and renaming it to Eildoug as per a special resolution, they had received no further instructions and that was the extent of their knowledge of the company.

Corné referred us to Eddie Maringa's offices in Johannesburg where he said we would also get hold of Wayne Africa, the elusive Eildoug director. A receptionist told us that Africa occasionally comes into the office and was expected during the course of the morning.

When we tracked Maringa down via his cellphone later, he claimed to have no knowledge of Africa's whereabouts and said he hadn't seen him in about three weeks. He also denied any involvement in the affairs of Eildoug, this despite three different parties separately naming him in connection with the municipal land deal.

The third party to name Maringa was another of the joint Zamien and Zambrotti financiers, Ashraf Kaka. Ashraf confirmed that Maringa was involved in a meeting with City of Johannesburg officials, along with attorney Peet Viljoen and Zamien and Zambrotti representative Irshad Sulliman.

Ashraf, who is dealing with the legal aspects of the matter, was reluctant to answer our questions about how much money had already been paid to Eildoug. He feared jeopardising the sub judice court proceedings, but did confirm that a "substantial amount", which included conveyancing fees and an "agent's commission" for Viljoen, had already been paid.

Viljoen had apparently acted as both conveyancer and agent in the transaction and like Eildoug, has been hard to track down. Listed numbers for his practice in Pretoria have gone unanswered and so has his cellular phone.

Viljoen is probably the most colourful of the characters mentioned in connection with the scandal. The former attorney to the Stars was the subject of a disbarment application by the Law Society of the Northern Provinces in mid-2009. The application was withdrawn, but it is understood that the society is still pursuing the matter and intends to reinstitute the application at some point in the future.

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