Ponzi king’s estate bringing in millions – but not enough

22 Jul

Sunday Times
20 July 2014
Nashira Davids

http://www.timeslive.co.za/sundaytimes/

About R20-million could be added next month to the kitty being accumulated to compensate 3000 investors who lost a total of R2.2-billion in Herman Pretorius’s Ponzi scheme.
The Cape Town mansion he shared with his wife, Susan, will be auctioned on August 15. With decor reportedly worth R13-million, it is expected to sell about the same as his Hermanus beach villa, which brought in R17.8-million last year.
zpretorius, from the tiny Western Cape village of Piketberg, rose to become a high-flying businessman with a fleet of luxury cars, at least two mansions and millions in his bank account.
But the good life came to a sudden end when he shot dead his business partner, Julian Williams, reportedly after an argument over money, and then turned the gun on himself.
Since then, the full extent of his scam has come to light and the trustees of the fund he ran have been trying to find his assets.
It is not an easy job, because books and other records were not properly kept and no financial statements were compiled, making it difficult to reconstruct business transactions.
What the trustees did uncover was a life of opulence paid for with money invested in his Relative Value Arbitrage Fund Trust.
Much like her husband’s investors, Susan “lost everything”, her lawyer, Etienne Naude, said.
Susan, who is the registered owner of the Welgemoed house, was sequestrated in October last year.
Naude said his client “is saddened about having to lose that house as well”.
According to the auctioneers ClareMart, the cost of the land and the construction of the home totalled about R20-million.
“There have been countless queries from potential buyers,” said a spokesman for the group.
The house has a marble entrance hall, marble counter tops and wraparound marble patio.
It has its own theatre, gymnasium and sauna, and boasts an excellent view and landscaped gardens.
Pretorius’s estate was sequestrated in the High Court in Cape Town last year.
Judge Owen Rodgers found that Pretorius had “attractedlarge sums from gullible members of the public (many of them from country towns in the Western Cape) by promising above average returns of 14% to 25% per annum – the time-honoured method originally made famous in the 1920s by Mr Charles Ponzi”.
Rodgers noted that Pretorius had no income apart from that derived from his investment scheme and that his wife had not worked since 1991.
But they had 10 properties, reportedly worth R116.9-million, and six cars, including an Aston Martin DBS and a Range Rover.
Rodgers remarked that Pretorius’s wife had said that she and her adult sons “know very little about the investment business and cannot be held accountable if it should transpire that Mr Pretorius acted unlawfully”. Other properties sold include: A luxury three-bedroom apartment in Claremont that fetched R3.3-million; A luxury beach villa in Hermanus – featuried on the cover of House and Leisure magazine in 2012 – scooped up for R17.85-million; Vacant land in Hermanus, auctioned for R 863 840; and “A-Grade” office space at the TygerWaterfront with 51 parking bays, sold for R14.9-million.
They also owned a property in Oranjezicht, vacant land in Wesfleur and a holiday home in Malgas were also on the list of sales.
Piet Serdyn, 73, of Moorreesburg, said he lost all his retirement savings when he invested with Pretorius shortly before his suicide.
He has little hope of getting any of his money back.
All we, as investors, can do is sit and wait. There is nothing we can do about it.

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