Posh set turn up for Ponzi man­sion auc­tion

CityPress - - News - STEVE KRETZMANN news@city­press.co.za

De­ceit, be­trayal, mur­der and sui­cide were the back story to the auc­tion of a lux­u­ri­ous home in Cape Town on Fri­day.

The state-of-the-art man­sion com­mands an im­pres­sive view from the top of the Wel­ge­moed hills in Dur­banville. It fetched R11.8 mil­lion in less than 10 min­utes of bid­ding among the well-heeled set who turned out in pas­tel cash­mere sweaters, patent leather shoes and taste­ful pearls.

About 60 peo­ple parked their lux­ury Ger­man sedans on the leafy street and had the light from the sparkling pool glint­ing on their faces as they gath­ered in the liv­ing area in which Ponzi scam­ster Her­man Pre­to­rius once re­laxed with his wife, Su­san, in whose es­tate the house was placed.

Her court bat­tle to pre­vent se­ques­tra­tion fol­low­ing his sui­cide failed, re­sult­ing in the auc­tion of their Her­manus beach house and a Clare­mont apart­ment.

The Wel­ge­moed house con­tains a 50-seater sur­round-sound theatre, wine cel­lar, land­scaped grounds, a fully equipped gym and a sauna.

Pre­to­rius’ high-fly­ing life­style fell apart af­ter fi­nan­cial re­porters, in­clud­ing Mon­ey­web’s Julius Cob­bett, started ques­tion­ing his con­sis­tent re­turns of 20% to 30% on his un­reg­u­lated Rel­a­tive Value Ar­bi­trage Fund.

On July 26 2012, Pre­to­rius ap­par­ently con­fronted his for­mer busi­ness part­ner Ju­lian Wil­liams in the Cape Town of­fices of Wil­liams’ com­pany Basileus Cap­i­tal.

The con­fronta­tion ended with Pre­to­rius fa­tally shoot­ing Wil­liams and turn­ing the gun on him­self. He died in hos­pi­tal a few hours later. Thou­sands of in­vestors from farm­ing towns like Moor­rees­burg and Hopeville lost their life sav­ings in the scam.

ClareMart Auc­tion Group’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, An­drew Koch, said about 200 peo­ple had lined up on the two view­ing days to see the house.

Among the well-heeled bid­ders and hang­ers-on at the auc­tion was a group of five home-schooled chil­dren brought on an ed­u­ca­tion out­ing and an elderly man with sunspots on his hands and a ragged beard un­der a farmer’s hat.

He turned out to be a canny player of the stock mar­ket who knew Pre­to­rius 30 years ago when the lat­ter worked in a com­pany he was a share­holder of.

“I never trusted him,” said the man, who did not want to give his name.

“I could see some­thing wasn’t right with him, I had a gut feel­ing. There was some­thing about his laugh, it was a skelm­lag [a dodgy laugh]. He wasn’t the person he ap­peared to be.”

The suc­cess­ful bid­der has kept his name un­der wraps.

PHOTO: LIZA VAN DEVEN­TER

IN THE SWIM The pool at Her­man Pre­to­rius’ lux­ury home in Dur­banville sparkles in the sun

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