Court throws book at rich de­fault­ing dad

Crim­i­nal con­vic­tion for man who cast his fam­ily into poverty

Sunday Times - - News Society - By TA­NIA BROUGHTON

● While a top Dur­ban busi­ness­man was liv­ing the high life, his ex-wife and two chil­dren were in ab­ject poverty, re­sort­ing to mak­ing a fire in the lounge to keep warm and cook.

These are some of the de­tails that have emerged in a land­mark case in which the busi­ness­man has been con­victed in a crim­i­nal court of fail­ing to pay more than R1-mil­lion in spousal and child main­te­nance from Au­gust 2012 — when the cou­ple di­vorced — to May 2016 when his ex-wife laid charges against him.

In a vic­tim-im­pact state­ment, the woman, who now lives in Gaut­eng, de­tailed their fall from the lap of lux­ury — liv­ing off a thriv­ing mul­ti­mil­lion-rand busi­ness — to be­ing down and out and hav­ing to pull the chil­dren out of school af­ter he stopped pay­ing main­te­nance.

“There were days we sim­ply did not eat. In spite of a high court or­der, we lived for nine months with­out elec­tric­ity . . . we would sit around the fire and pre­tend we were camp­ing.

“We would boil the swim­ming pool wa­ter and we would have a turn in show­er­ing in a bucket. He sold my car and we had no med­i­cal as­sis­tance. At the age of 60, I have noth­ing. My health has suf­fered be­yond re­pair, my chil­dren [who were in their early teens when the le­gal bat­tle be­gan] are un­e­d­u­cated and the glim­mer of hope to re­build my life is noth­ing but a glim­mer.”

Now the state is ask­ing that the man, a di­rec­tor of a chain of restau­rants, go to jail and for some of his sub­stan­tial as­sets — which the court found he had “hid­den” in his ef­forts to claim he could not af­ford to pay what he owed to his ex-wife — be at­tached.

Most mat­ters deal­ing with main­te­nance de­fault­ers are re­ferred for al­ter­na­tive dis­pute res­o­lu­tion. This case, how­ever, pro­ceeded to trial and the man was con­victed in the

There were days we sim­ply did not eat. We lived for months with­out elec­tric­ity Ex-wife of wealthy main­te­nance de­faulter

Krugers­dorp Mag­is­trate’s Court ear­lier this year. Sen­tenc­ing pro­ceed­ings be­fore mag­is­trate Ab­dul Khan are on­go­ing. The max­i­mum penalty is three years’ im­pris­on­ment.

In the mean­time, Khan or­dered that no money or as­sets be trans­ferred out of the man’s busi­ness.

The court heard that the cou­ple mar­ried in 1992. She was debt free and he ar­rived with his worldly pos­ses­sions in “two bags”.

They started the busi­ness with her money and it did “ex­cep­tion­ally well”. But the mar­riage floun­dered and in their di­vorce set­tle­ment, which took three years to fi­nalise, he was or­dered to pay his ex-wife R24 000 a month for five years (R1.4-mil­lion) to en­able her to get back on her feet, and R10 000 a month to her for the chil­dren.

The busi­ness­man de­faulted af­ter three months.

At the start of the trial, he pleaded not guilty, say­ing he could not af­ford to pay.

The wife said up un­til their di­vorce they lived a com­fort­able life with the in­come from the busi­ness that owned the res­tau­rant fran­chise. They also had a sep­a­rate busi­ness that sup­plied sauces and branded items to the fran­chisees. The busi­nesses had an an­nual turnover of about R9-mil­lion be­fore the di­vorce.

The man tes­ti­fied that the busi­nesses had gone through a tough time in later years, and had been bailed out by his new fi­ancée who now ef­fec­tively em­ployed him. She was not pre­pared to as­sist him in pay­ing main­te­nance, he said.

The mag­is­trate re­jected this: “Ef­fec­tively the busi­ness was sold for no value . . . this court is con­vinced the ac­cused is ef­fec­tively the owner of the busi­ness and his fi­ancée is just his nom­i­nee.”

Khan said the man had “wil­fully en­gi­neered” a way out of pay­ing what he was legally obliged to pay. The trans­fer of the busi­ness was a smoke­screen to al­low him to live a lux­u­ri­ous life, while “push­ing” his exwife and chil­dren “into poverty”.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.