Posh set turn up for Ponzi mansion auction
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.
IN THE SWIM The pool at Herman Pretorius’ luxury home in Durbanville sparkles in the sun