Yengeni busted

2010-10-31 09:39

Convicted fraudster and ANC bigwig Tony Yengeni has broken the law again and could face more jail time.

A City Press investigation can disclose that:

» Yengeni flouted the Companies Act by becoming a director of six companies despite being automatically banned from any such role as a result of his conviction for defrauding Parliament;

» Two of the companies of which he is a director netted potentially lucrative mineral prospecting rights; and

» Yengeni continues to live the high life, with no fewer than three luxury cars to his name – including a 2009 Maserati GranTurismo, which carries a price tag of about R1.75 million.

Once dubbed a “Gucci socialist” because of his taste for fine clothing and flashy cars, he could face a stiff fine or up to two years in jail.

The Companies Act automatically disqualifies from being ­appointed a company director any person who has been convicted of fraud or of “an offence involving dishonesty”, and who has been sentenced to a prison term without the option of a fine.

Legal experts say that Yengeni could have served as a company ­director only if a high court had granted him permission to do so.

Yengeni, head of the ANC’s ­political school, was unrepentant when asked this week whether a court had granted him the necessary permission.

“What has the high court to do with my life?

Maybe the law stipulates certain things, but the high court ... I don’t think they feature. I don’t have to ask permission from them to deal with my life.”

Asked how he could afford his fleet of luxury cars, he said: “It is none of your business. It is a private matter how many cars I have. It is not a public matter.

“You have got many, many other citizens of this country who not only have cars, they have got aeroplanes and helicopters ... Especially white people, who have all the wealth and everything.”

Ironically, the case that sent him to jail centred on a green Mercedes-Benz ML320 4x4.

Yengeni, a former ANC chief whip, was convicted in 2003 after he failed to disclose a 47% discount he received on the vehicle from Daimler-Benz Aerospace, a company with a keen interest in South Africa’s arms acquisition project.

At the time he was the chairperson of Parliament’s joint standing committee on defence, which oversaw the country’s ­controversial arms deal.

In 2004 Yengeni was sentenced to four years in prison without the option of a fine.

He was jailed in ­August 2006 after a long struggle to stay out of jail and was freed in January 2007 after serving just five months of the four-year sentence.

Vehicle registration records list Yengeni as the owner of no fewer than three luxury vehicles – the ­Maserati GranTurismo; a 2009 BMW X5; and a 2009 model BMW X6. The Maserati and the X6 appear to be fully paid for, while the X5 is being financed.

Records held by the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (Cipro) show that Yengeni became a director of the six companies between February 2005 and November 2008.

In two instances he was appointed as a director while he was out on bail pending an appeal against his fraud conviction. He became a director of another four companies within two years of his release from jail on parole.

Yengeni joined one company, ­Auburn Avenue Trading 88, two months after it was granted a prospecting licence for nearly 200 sites in North West.

He joined another company just weeks before it was granted prospecting rights covering 174 sites.

Asked if – given the circumstances of his case – Yengeni could serve as a director, one expert said: “Absolutely not, unless he has permission from the court.

If he was serving as a director already (when he was convicted) he would have been compelled to step down.

“The disqualification follows ­automatically after conviction and sentencing.”

The disqualification was also “not suspended by the ­notification of an appeal”.

Faan Coetzee, a director at leading law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, said that if a convicted fraudster continued to be a director, “he shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable for all debts incurred by the company during the period he serves as a director”.

Fellow directors would also be ­liable.

“If a company cannot pay a debt, then the creditor is entitled to claim ­payment from the disqualified ­director and any other director who knew or should have known of the disqualification.”

Timeline:Tony Yengeni is back in the news. Click here to view a timeline of his political career in the headlines.

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