Scheme losers cry foul
Netball administrator accused of duping scores with offside microloan dodge
● Pieter Marais hated every minute he was a plumber — and now, he says, a giant swindle has put his life back in the toilet.
All that Marais, 50, wanted was to give his twins a good education and retire early. Like many others — including pensioners in the small Western Cape coastal town of Kleinmond — he invested in a microlending business owned by prominent netball official Anina Vlok between 2009 and 2013.
The returns were irresistible, and Vlok, 48, attracted more than R40-million in investments.
She promised more than 40% interest annually but Marais, who invested R600 000, is yet to see a cent of the dividends and might never recover his money.
The unrealistic promises have landed Vlok — who is alleged to have run a Ponzi scheme, splurging investors’ money on boat cruises, overseas trips and luxury cars — in hot water. She is facing a slew of charges in the Caledon Regional Court including fraud, theft and contravening the Banks Act.
Vlok’s business, Fundco, was liquidated in 2013. This was after a business rescue practitioner found she had not kept financial records since 2009, paid no income tax or VAT returns to SARS and used new investors’ money to pay “interest” to other investors She used the money for “personal expenses” and those of “her family” but eventually abandoned the business, leaving her employees in “limbo’.
She re-emerged in Jeffreys Bay, in the Eastern Cape, where she is involved in netball administration in the province. According
to her LinkedIn profile, Vlok is the president of the Kouga Netball Association.
Marais is livid.
“The reason I joined was that I was working overseas and I wanted to come back earlier to my family,” he told the Sunday Times.
“I was in Afghanistan and Iraq. The work I was doing [as a security officer] was very dangerous, I could have lost my life every single day. The goal was to save up for the kids’ education and obviously retirement.”
Marais sensed something was wrong when Vlok failed to update him about the venture. He said her flashy assets also triggered alarm bells.
“She had Toyota Fortuners, Pajeros, Jeep Cherokees. Every single person working in her office got a car. There were always massive cars outside her office, brand-new, out of the box,” said Marais.
“She was spending money on flights, boat trips and she would take her whole family. She would walk into a place and say all rounds are on the house. She was throwing money around that was never hers. There was one guy from Hermanus who invested R15-million. Anina told me her target was R53-million.”
In an e-mail attached to the court papers, a Trudy Snyman said: “You will see that my sister paid in [R1-million] in December  and that Anina . . . spent the full amount with 20 days.”
In the liquidation application, business rescue practitioner Petrus Louw said Vlok had left no sustainable cash flow to sustain the business and monthly operational costs had been more than R200 000 when she abandoned it.
“Based on a pro forma balance sheet drawn up by me, the close corporation is hopelessly insolvent with assets of some R3.5-million and liabilities of approximately R43.4-million,” Louw said in an affidavit filed in the liquidation application.
The charge sheet states that Vlok’s business strategy was to provide small shortterm loans of up to R5 000 and charge high interest.
“Fundco would then solicit investors to enter into a ‘loan agreement’ whereby amounts were invested for [two] years with a promised interest ranging from 24% to 42% per annum. Agreements stated that the capital was guaranteed and insured with ‘Real People Finance’,” the charge sheet reads.
“Investors were promised a very high interest rate and they would receive monthly interest payments. Most of the investors in fact did receive monthly payments, which were purported to be interest. By late 2012 Fundco ran out of funds and there was no income generated. The monthly payments stopped and [Vlok] left Kleinmond without informing the investors of her intentions or whereabouts.”
Vlok will appear in the Caledon Regional Court on May 25. This week, her lawyer, Asghar Mia, said his client would not comment on the allegations against her and had not pleaded yet.