Hawks probe Rupert farm deal

2012-11-09 00:00

BUSINESS mogul Johann Rupert is caught in the middle of a legal battle between a controversial Johannesburg businessman and a team of liquidators over an exclusive Cape wine farm.

Rupert bought the 85-hectare Klein Normandie in the exclusive Franschhoek valley more than three years ago for R25 million.

But an offer on the farm — owned by Durban businessman Ian Brakspear’s company — had already been accepted from flamboyant Johannesburg businessman Zunaid Moti for R18 million.

But as Moti waited for the transaction to be concluded, Brakspear’s business was liquidated, which cancelled Moti’s contract and saw the property sold to Rupert.

Moti, against whom attempted robbery charges were dropped last week, is suing the liquidators for more than R7 million in damages. The Hawks have meanwhile launched an investigation into the possible fraudulent liquidation of Brakspear, who claims he was liquidated without his knowledge in an elaborate conspiracy.

The Hawks confirmed this week that their fraud investigation into Brakspear’s December 2008 liquidation was “in an advanced stage” and that they were awaiting only two more statements.

The historic Klein Normandie has almost 30 hectares of vineyard and borders the word-renowned Boschendal and L’Ormarins, which belongs to the Rupert family.

Following financial difficulties, Brakspear originally negotiated to sell Klein Normandie in November 2007 to Moti for R37 million.

But Moti withdrew from the negotiations, seeing that that there was a chance to get the farm for less since Brakspear was in financial trouble.

Brakspear gave his farm to the disgraced Auction Alliance to sell and in June 2008, Moti’s Abalengani group bought Klein Normandie again, but this time for only R18 million. Moti paid a non-refundable deposit of R1 million and announced that he was going to build a boutique hotel and conference centre on the farm. The chief executive of Abalengani, Ashruf Kaka, said they presented guarantees and papers were lodged.

Brakspear said that Rupert was informed of Moti’s purchase and in late 2008 offered him R25 million.

“He didn’t want Moti as his neighbour,” says Brakspear. “He wanted the farm at all cost.”

Before any of the deals could be concluded, Brakspear’s company and owner of Klein Normandie, West Dunes, was provisionally liquidated in the high court in Durban two days before Christmas in 2008.

This liquidation is now at the centre of the Hawks investigation.

Spokesperson Captain Paul Ramaloko said that although the investigation was almost concluded he could not say what the outcome would be.

Brakspear said West Dunes was not bankrupt, that he was opposing the application at the time and that there was no need for its liquidation.

Media24 Investigations understands that the Hawks have discovered there is no record that the West Dunes case was heard in the high court in Durban on that day. The case file has also gone missing.

The attorney representing the claimant, Leonard Katz, who is the director of the insolvency department at Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs — Africa’s largest law firm — said he knew nothing of the Hawks investigation and that the order was obtained in open court.

Katz later said the order was granted in the judge’s chambers.

The farm was then sold to Rupert. Rupert said this week that his purchase of Klein Normandie was a “defensive buy” and was above the market value.

Kaka this week lashed out at the circumstances under which the farm was sold to the business mogul and said the liquidation of West Dunes was “pushed through”, which in effect prevented Abalengani and Moti from acquiring the farm.

Abalengani has issued a summons of R7,2 million against the liquidators, who are defending the case.

Brakspear said he was also preparing a court application to set aside the liquidation of West Dunes.

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