‘BEE guru’ was a fake

2011-01-15 15:44

Multimillion-rand fraud accused Steve Pinky Mnguni sold his dreams of riches to hapless investors by ­using a prominent radio station, an upmarket glossy magazine and his own smooth-talking tongue.

For nearly three years the ­Pretoria “businessman” lived on the run to stay ahead of more than 200 investors who, between them, allegedly lost more than R30 million by investing in his schemes.

It all came to an end in the first week of the new year, however, when ­Lieutenant-Colonel Bongani Maile of the South African Police Service’s organised crime unit got his man.

Maile first set his sights on Mnguni in 2008, when investors who had poured their life savings into his Westside Group of Companies approached the police for help.

Mnguni, they alleged, had failed to pay their promised dividends. His excuse was that he was being investigated by the now defunct Scorpions and his assets had been frozen.

Investors approached Maile to check whether this was true. He ­established that there was no Scorpions ­investigation, and the first complaints were lodged. Mnguni’s web ­started to unravel.

An arrest warrant was issued and Mnguni’s attorney arranged for him to turn himself in. He never did so, however, and disappeared.

Then, last Friday, Maile received a ­tip-off to the effect that Mnguni was at an office park in the eastern Pretoria suburb of ­Garsfontein.

As the police’s national intervention unit prepared to break down the door of an office that seemed to be ­deserted, Mnguni opened it and was arrested.

“I was really relieved,” said Maile. “At last justice could be done.”

Mnguni rose to fame in Pretoria around 2005, when he sold his ­vision of empowerment over Ikwekwezi FM in paid-for spots and as an occasional market commentator.

He further bought the trust of ­investors through Leadership magazine, in which his Westside Group of ­Companies took out a four-page advertorial costing R100?000 in 2007. In it he was described as a business genius making a rapid ­fortune through multibillion-rand ­contracts with mines and Eskom.

Mnguni was quoted as saying: “When it comes to risk I have been through hell. Dealing with it has helped me on the way to becoming one of the strongest 100% black-owned transport companies today.”

He allegedly even stiffed Leadership magazine when it came to paying for the ad.

Leadership’s editor-in-chief, Robbie Stammers, said it had taken legal action against Mnguni, who owed them “a substantial debt”.

One of Mnguni’s alleged victims, Kenneth Mphephu, a young police forensic scientist, recalled ­seeing Mnguni on the front page of Leadership, which impressed him enough to rally fellow investors and sink his savings into a truck.

Another investor, David Mtsweni, who had known Mnguni since the late 1990s when they studied ­together, lost R50 000.

Westside was claimed to have been started in 2004 with R3 million in “seed capital raised by Mnguni from his share-trading activities”.

“He said he had 100 trucks and would offer 40 of them to disadvantaged ­investors who, for R150 000 each, could buy a stake in a truck which would earn them R25 000 to R40 000 a month, hauling coal for Eskom on a tender he claimed to have,” recalled Mtsweni.

Hawks spokesperson Colonel McIntosh Polela said he had been “gobsmacked” by a flood of new complaints this week, some involving amounts ranging from R250 000 to R10 million.

Mnguni’s wife, a co-director, has handed herself over to police and was released on bail of R30 000 because she has three children and is breastfeeding an 11-month-old baby.

Mnguni’s formal bail hearing will take place at the Commercial Crimes Court in Pretoria tomorrow.

»  Any further complaints can be directed to Lieutenant-Colonel Bongani Maile on 079-529-2752 or to the Investors’ Committee: ­Tembinkosi on 081-306-4053 or Neville on 083-258-3098. An investors’ meeting is scheduled to be held in Eastlynn, Pretoria, at noon on ­January 29

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