Scheme losers cry foul

Net­ball ad­min­is­tra­tor ac­cused of dup­ing scores with off­side mi­croloan dodge

Sunday Times - - News Fraud Case - By PHILANI NOMBEMBE nombe­m­[email protected]­day­times.co.za

● 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 [2012] 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.

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