Monday, November 9, 2015

Ombud dismisses Nova complaint - SHAREMAX

Ombud dismisses Nova complaint
By Staff Reporter

THE PRESS Ombudsman has dismissed a complaint against Business Report and one of its senior reporters about an article about Sharemax Investments that was lodged by Nova Property Group (NPG) chief executive Dominique Haese.

In a ruling released on Monday, Press Ombudsman Johan Retief said he was satisfied that Business Report reporter Roy Cokayne based the disputed statements on reliable evidence and “his reportage was justified”.

The NPG complained about an article published in Business Report on April 14 this year headlined “Sharemax ex-directors win appeal – Order to repay two investors set aside”.


Retief said NPG complained that two paragraphs were “incorrect, defamatory, baseless and unnecessarily harmful to its reputation”.

One of these sentences was that “Sharemax’s collapse in 2010 was precipitated by the findings of a registrar of banks investi- gation, that Sharemax’s funding model contravened the Bank Act, becoming public knowledge. This led to new investments drying up and it being unable to make monthly payments to investors”.

The second sentence said: “The registrar of banks laid criminal charges against Sharemax for alleged contraventions of the Banks Act in March 2012.”

Haese claimed there had never been a legal finding of any kind that Sharemax had contravened the Banks Act and requested proof from Business Report that the matter had led to new investment drying up.

Retief said Haese’s argument that there had never been a legal finding that a Banks Act contravention had ever occurred “is irrelevant” because the sentence in dispute did not state that but mentioned the findings of a Registrar or Banks investigation, which was not in dispute.

He said Haese herself provided proof that new investments were drying up.

“She says in her complaint: ‘The damage continuously being caused by (Business Report’s) incorrect and misleading reporting, has far reaching negative effects on the Nova Property Group. That alone, to my mind, justifies this aspect of the reportage,” he said.

Retief added that Cokayne had also provided him with enough substantiating evidence “for me to decide that the reportage of this issue was reasonable and fair”. He said Haese said Sharemax had merely ceased its business operations while Cokayne called it a collapse.

Retief said the difference appeared to be little more than semantic and the end result was the same.

Retief said Cokayne stated that on June 14 2012 deputy registrar of banks Michael Blackbeard wrote to him stating: “The two appointed inspectors/managers (Jaco Spies & Neels Alant) met with Colonel Makhubele on 9 March 2012 and reported the matter to him…”

Ponzi scheme

He added that on October 9 2012 the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation of the SAPS responded to a question on whether the Hawks were investigating allegations of fraud against Sharemax Investments and whether it operated a pyramid or Ponzi scheme.

Retief said the SAPS formally responded by saying: “Yes. We can confirm an investigation is under way.”

Retief concluded this reportage was “clearly based on (overwhelmingly credible) information” and the reportage was therefore justified.

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