'Highway Hennie' grounded

2007-02-28 23:13

Pretoria - An order by Pretoria High Court has paved the way for the seizure of assets - valued at up to R370m - apparently linked to large-scale smuggling and other crimes.

The national prosecuting authority (NPA) has already seized assets worth R70m from Midrand businessman Hendrik "Hennie" Delport and his companies.

Hendrik "Highway Hennie" Delport, 46, is a pilot and the owner of Phoebus Apollo Aviation.

When Delport arrived at his office at Rand Airport on Wednesday morning, members of the NPA's asset forfeiture unit and the South African Revenue Service (SARS) were waiting for him.

7 200 counts against them

Thirteen other people and 35 associated companies have been charged with him in connection with about 7 200 counts of cigarette smuggling, fraud and gang related activities.

Delport is out on bail of R500 000.

The case, which has dragged on for more than a year, will be resumed in the Pretoria magistrate's court on April 4.

One of the accused is a former SARS employee, Hendrik Gerhardus van der Merwe.

The asset seizures were done on the strength of a preliminary restraining order seen as the biggest yet of its kind in South Africa.

The Master of the Supreme Court has appointed two curators from auditors firm KPMG to ensure that Delport and his co-accused don't sell any of their assets while the criminal case is in progress.

Allen Few, one of the curators of the seized goods said they included 10 light aircraft, a large number of other vehicles and property.

The long list includes a Robinson R22-aircraft, a 2006-model Jeep Grand Cherokee, a 2005-model Fiat Palio, a 2000-model Land Rover Defender, a 1998-model Chevrolet-sedan, Delport's house in President Park, Midrand, and a jetski.

Few said two professional valuators had been appointed to itemise and photograph the assets and this alone would keep them busy for a week.

Few described "Highway Hennie", as Delport is known to flying enthusiasts, as polite, but a tough customer.

Business as usual

"He has undertaken to stick to the order, although he is free to get legal counsel.

"This was explained to him."

The aircraft remain at the airport, because Delport can continue doing business, while an accountant will work every day at the Phoebus office and monitor every transaction.

Delport did not want to speak to the media. He said his case was "still on the go and therefor sub judice".