Foren­sics in­ves­ti­ga­tions firm warns against al­leged scam­ster

Has al­legedly de­frauded Aus­tralian in­vestor out of R200 000

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - METRO - SHANICE NAIDOO [email protected]

A FOREN­SIC in­ves­ti­ga­tions com­pany has is­sued a strong warn­ing ahead of the fes­tive sea­son about a pos­si­ble scam­ster op­er­at­ing from Cape Town and tar­get­ing for­eign­ers and locals.

IRS Foren­sic In­ves­ti­ga­tions sounded the warn­ing af­ter an Aus­tralian na­tional, Robert Pa­s­tore, con­tacted them af­ter he was al­legedly scammed out of R200 000.

In­ves­ti­ga­tor Glenda Paul told the Week­end Ar­gus that in an­other twist to the saga, Pa­s­tore’s bank made an er­ro­neous pay­ment of R65 000 into AIP In­vest­ments’ ac­count in July.

“How­ever, when Pa­s­tore’s bank tried to re­call the funds, they were un­able to, as the funds had al­ready been utilised by the ben­e­fi­ciary,” said Paul.

Pa­s­tore al­legedly in­vested the money with AIP In­vest­ments, owned by Jamie Vertue. AIP is based in Cape Town and of­fers forex trad­ing, bi­nary op­tions and cryp­tocur­rency op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Pa­s­tore claims he trans­ferred R100 000 in 2017 and re­ceived monthly state­ments show­ing the growth of his in­vest­ment. To­wards the end of 2017, Pa­s­tore al­legedly in­vested an­other R100 000. How­ever, he grew con­cerned when his monthly state­ment in Fe­bru­ary was al­legedly de­layed, and when he even­tu­ally re­ceived it, the state­ment was in ad­vance un­til the end of April.

In terms of the state­ment sent to Pa­s­tore, his in­vest­ment should have grown to R446 000.

The Week­end Ar­gus is in pos­ses­sion of these state­ments and sup­port­ing doc­u­ments.

IRS Foren­sic In­ves­ti­ga­tions spe­cialises in fi­nan­cial crimes of all types took over the mat­ter in Oc­to­ber.

Its in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­vealed that Vertue is reg­is­tered with the Fi­nan­cial Sec­tor Con­duct Au­thor­ity (FSCA) as a fi­nan­cial ser­vices provider un­der Lib­erty.

AIP In­vest­ments, how­ever, is not reg­is­tered as an FSP, is not Fi­nan­cial Ad­vi­sory and In­ter­me­di­ary Ser­vices com­pli­ant and is op­er­at­ing il­le­gally.

Paul said Pa­s­tore queried why his state­ment was in ad­vance and was told it had been made by Vertue’s sec­re­tary.

“From that point on­wards, he stopped re­spond­ing to Robert’s emails, What­sApp and Face­book mes­sages,” said Paul.

In a What­sApp mes­sage, Pa­s­tore at­tempted to get his money back in an am­i­ca­ble man­ner.

“If I can help it, I don’t want to go to this length be­cause in the last 18 months you have been re­ally good to me.

“We should come to a sort of agree­ment to avoid any le­gal ac­tion. I am will­ing for you just to re­pay me my two ini­tial in­vest­ments out­lay of R200 000. R100 000 for my su­per­an­nu­a­tion in­vest­ment and R100 000 for my pri­vate in­vest­ment and set­tle this with no in­ter­est,” the mes­sage read.

IRS also con­tacted Vertue in an at­tempt to find an am­i­ca­ble so­lu­tion to the mat­ter.

“He claimed that he had put our client’s in­vest­ment into an Amer­i­can com­pany, SkyTrade24, which turned out to be a scam and he had been un­able to get the money, or the in­ter­est back from the com­pany. When I queried as to how he moved the funds out of the coun­try, he ex­plained that he had paid it into a lo­cal ac­count.

“How­ever, this does not cor­re­late with the proof of pay­ment he sent me which sup­pos­edly shows the money paid into this com­pany’s ac­count (dates and amounts also do not cor­re­late).

“When I queried the pay­ment made in er­ror, Vertue claimed to have been un­aware of the is­sue and that if I could send through the proof of pay­ment as well as proof of Robert’s bank’s ef­forts to re­call the funds, he would re­fund our client as he had the money in a trust ac­count,” said Paul.

This con­tra­dicted his ear­lier claim of be­ing un­aware of the is­sue. De­spite the IRS sub­se­quently send­ing him the proof of pay­ment and the email Pa­s­tore re­ceived from the bank, stat­ing that the funds had al­ready been utilised, Vertue al­legedly failed to re­fund the money.

Vertue was re­ported to the FSCA. In email cor­re­spon­dence with IRS, he said the FSCA con­tacted him, and he was told to stop which he claimed he did.

Paul said it was then that Vertue tried to get Pa­s­tore to sign an agree­ment in which he would al­low his in­vest­ment to be moved into his new (and also un­reg­is­tered with the FSCA) in­vest­ment com­pany AFX Wealth.

In the agree­ment, it in­cludes the R65 000 paid in er­ror, as part of Pa­s­tore’s in­vest­ment, which is in­cor­rect.

On in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it was de­ter­mined by the IRS and the FSCA that AFX Wealth is also not a reg­is­tered FSP.

“The com­pany shows that Vertue’s wife is the di­rec­tor of AFX Wealth,” said Paul.

The IRS then opened a case at Good­wood Po­lice Sta­tion.

Po­lice con­firmed that Vertue was known to them as he had come in ear­lier this year be­cause he claimed to have been scammed.

In email cor­re­spon­dence be­tween IRS and Vertue, he ex­plained that he had tried to open a case against SkyTrade24 (whom he had sup­pos­edly traded Pa­s­tore’s money with and was sub­se­quently scammed).

IRS said of­fi­cers in­formed them that if Vertue had been de­frauded, then the case would be closed as civil.

“His lawyer would be send­ing them (po­lice) an af­fi­davit. When I en­quired about the pay­ment in er­ror, the of­fi­cer said that he be­lieved that was also a civil mat­ter, but that he would be send­ing the docket to the pros­e­cu­tor for a de­ci­sion.”

Case law in South Africa has shown pre­vi­ously that it is an of­fence to keep or not pay back money that has been paid into an ac­count in er­ror. A re­cent sim­i­lar high pro­file case was that of the stu­dent who re­ceived R14 mil­lion which was paid into her ac­count by the NSFAS and sub­se­quently charged by SAPS for theft.

Po­lice spokesper­son Noloyiso Rwex­ana con­firmed that the mat­ter is still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The Week­end Ar­gus spoke to Vertue’s lawyer, ad­vo­cate Them­bela Mbebe, who be­lieves there is no fraud in­volved be­cause there was a con­tract be­tween his client and the in­vestor.

“When one chooses to in­vest there are risks in­volved. We are, how­ever co-op­er­at­ing with po­lice. The mat­ter is sub ju­dice and I can’t com­ment any fur­ther.”

The IRS re­ceived an email from Pa­s­tore about two weeks ago in which he ex­plained that he had re­ceived an email from Vertue which ad­ver­tised his new in­vest­ment com­pany Seven Shores Cap­i­tal FX.

In a sep­a­rate mat­ter, Vertue’s pre­vi­ous em­ployer, which spe­cialises in mak­ing and sell­ing of­fice fur­ni­ture in Ep­ping, told the Week­end Ar­gus that they have also had to bear the brunt of his al­leged un­der­hand deal­ings.

The cur­rent fi­nan­cial man­ager at the com­pany said Vertue be­gan work­ing with them in the lat­ter half of 2015 and was em­ployed full time as fi­nan­cial man­ager for about a year.

“He then re­signed from the full­time con­tract and worked as a con­tract em­ployee. He said this was so he could fo­cus on his com­pany AIP in­vest­ments,” said the man­ager.

Af­ter about three months into Vertue’s part-time con­tract, the com­pany did not re­quire his ser­vices any­more, and his con­tract came to an end in March last year.

“Shortly af­ter he left, I took over and dis­cov­ered some ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the com­pany books. I did some more in­ves­ti­ga­tions and un­cov­ered a whole lot more.

“There were trans­ac­tions, even when the com­pany shut down for a few days. We con­tacted him to ex­plain the ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties. He re­fuses to ex­plain and has ig­nored all cor­re­spon­dence from us.”

The ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties al­legedly added up to about R500 000. The com­pany al­leges that Vertue had been draw­ing money out of the com­pany’s ac­count and cre­ated en­tries in the books to cover it up.

“We then con­tacted a fraud de­tec­tion com­pany and in­ves­ti­gated fur­ther. We then opened a case against Vertue at Elsies River Po­lice Sta­tion in Septem­ber last year.”

Lieu­tenant Colonel An­drè Traut, spokesper­son for SAPS, con­firmed that Elsies River po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing a case of fraud and the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is yet to be fi­nalised.

“We have heard from po­lice this year, ask­ing us to get af­fi­davits from the com­pa­nies listed in the books to say that those trans­ac­tions never took place,” said the fi­nan­cial man­ager.

Mean­while, Vertue claimed he had no knowl­edge about this cases and had not re­ceived cor­re­spon­dence. “I have 28 other clients and they are happy. I don’t care, I have done noth­ing wrong,” said Vertue.

He claims he hasn’t worked for the fur­ni­ture com­pany in four years.

MBATHA BATHINI

CREDIT card scams are just one of the many ways crim­i­nals are cheat­ing peo­ple out of their money. Be care­ful when in­vest­ing.|

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