Noose around Singh tightens with seizure of cash, properties

2014-04-17 00:00

OVER R100 million in cash and three massive housing developments in Phoenix built and once owned by embattled Durban tycoon Jay Singh were attached by the Asset Forfeiture Unit yesterday.

The 1 244 units in complexes known as Eastbury, Longcroft and Forest Haven are at the centre of a forensic investigation led by both the Asset Forfeiture Unit and National Treasury.

Their probe is focusing on an alleged dodgy sale and involves the KZN Department of Human Settlements, the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA), companies linked to Singh and fronted by his wife Shireen Annamalay — Woodglaze Trading and Moko Housing Rental — and a little known section 21 company, First Metro Housing, that eventually took ownership of the properties.

It is believed that not only did SHRA purchase the properties from Moko Housing Rental for R101 million for First Metro but it in fact also financed the initial construction of the same flats built by Woodglaze Trading — paying twice for the same flats to the tune of R336 million.

In December, The Witness reported that a confidential internal investigation completed in July by SHRA found the purchase of the properties to be questionable and ordered a full investigation into the sale as well as lifestyle audits of officials involved. The R101 million frozen by the AFU is the money the SHRA paid over to Singh’s companies as part of the purchase of the flats.

The SHRA report also found:

• the initial payments to Moko were not in compliance with the body’s own social housing regulations;

• Moko had deliberately “deceived” the body by providing erroneous financial information;

• the Phoenix development was not eligible for an institutional grant as the tenants targeted earned in excess of R7 500 per month and should never have been financed in the first place; and

• a lifestyle audit of SHRA officials linked to the payments should be undertaken.

According to the report, the houses were built by Woodglaze Trading, also owned by Annamalay. Moko, a non-profit organisation, was set up to manage the rental of the tenants. The same sale is at the centre of a legal wrangle between the current residents of the units and Woodglaze Trading.

Last Monday, the Phoenix Tenants Association submitted a supplementary affidavit at the Durban high court including the findings of the SHRA confidential report. The residents claim that the units were meant to be sold to them and not to First Metro.

When contacted, Singh’s lawyer Rajan Naidoo politely said: “I do not want to talk to you, goodbye”. Phoenix Tenants Association’s Mervyn Govender said they have been approached by the AFU to assist with their investigation. “We have been asked to submit lease agreements and other docu­ments. We must first meet with our legal representation to decide on what steps we must take.”

Singh is a controversial figure whose construction company Gralio Precast has netted over R2 billion in tenders from eThekwini and was in the process of building a mall in Tongaat that collapsed in November 2013 killing two people and injuring 29. The mall collapse is now being investigated by a special commission set up by the Department of Labour.

Gralio was also found in 2012 by a forensic report commissioned by the provincial government to have delivered housing projects to the city that were “shoddy” and “dangerous”.

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