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Swindler conned Land Bank

2008-08-01 09:52

Johannesburg - Alleged "master-swindler" Kobus Boshoff's tentacles reached to the highest levels of the Land Bank.

According to affidavits and documents seen by Beeld, Boshoff allegedly made at least R70 000 in payments to Godfrey Masilela, a former general manager of the Land Bank's Credit Division and head of credit risk to "assist with advice", and loaned him a 4x4 bakkie which - according to one witness - he "drove for more than a year".

Boshoff also allegedly got Land Bank officials to issue him with bogus letters of intent promising staggering loans - in one case an amount of R169m for the Pyramid abattoir in Gauteng even though it was only valued at less than R20m, and in another case R225m for a sugar plantation in KwaZulu-Natal. The letters were allegedly used to impress potential investors in Boshoff's schemes.

And a company possibly linked to Boshoff - "Tswelepelo Farming Enterprises" - may have received a R9m loan from a BEE fund housed in the agriculture department but disbursed through a special account at the Land Bank as late as December last year, long after the bank discovered the bogus letters of intent.

High-powered Land Bank officials

Two Boshoff-linked companies are at the heart of his dealings with the Land Bank are SR Tswelopele and Manapo Abattoir.

Tswelopele - which was established in 2004, included several high-powered Land Bank officials on its board - among them general managers Herman Moeketsi, George Oricho, Godfrey Masilela, staffer Ram Sookdeo, and a Department of Trade and Industry employee, Reginald Pholo.

Boshoff's son Jacques was another director.

Boshoff junior, Sookdeo, KwaZulu-Natal advocate and Acting Judge Wilfred Mkhize and National African Farmers Union president Motsepe Matlala were all directors of Manapo.

Company register searches indicate that Mkhize remains active in another company called Manapo Investment Holdings with Boshoff's son and Sookdeo.

Established to purportedly pursue coal mining opportunities, Tswelopele collapsed and all the directors - with the exception of Boshoff junior - resigned on 11 July 2005, according to company records.

An affidavit by Mkhize, dated 6 November 2007, reveals Boshoff as the puppet-master controlling the company.

Receive benefits

He claimed the main reason for the Land Bank officials' involvement was "to co-ordinate the loan applications that were submitted to the Land Bank and in return...they [would] receive benefits in the transaction or companies".

Among the deals Tswelopele embarked on was an attempt to buy the Umfolozi Sugar Mill in KwaZulu-Natal.

According to Mkhize, Boshoff "referred to Herman Moeketsi [the Land Bank's head of marketing] as the senior person who will arrange loans at the Land Bank".

"Herman Moeketsi was fully aware of what was going on and what his role was in this transaction."

Moeketsi has denied the claims and has previously said that he lost R150 000 after being allegedly duped by Boshoff into paying for Tswelopele's plush Pretoria offices.

Mkhize claimed that the Land Bank's former head of retail trade, Wim Alberts, was the person "preparing letters of guarantee" - a claim Alberts has strenuously denied.

Alberts was suspended by the bank in 2006 and later sacked. One of the charges levelled against him involved the loan letters. He is currently taking the bank to the CCMA.

Scapegoat and victim

In closing statements during his disciplinary hearing, he said he was a "scapegoat" and "a victim, just as the Land Bank is a victim of a dishonest individual by the name Kobus Boshoff" and denied any wrongdoing.

Mkhize continues to maintain ties with Boshoff.

On Thursday, Mkhize told Beeld he was on his way to visit Boshoff at the police cells where is being held pending a court appearance next week.

Boshoff was arrested last Sunday for fraud.

In an unsigned affidavit, a copy of which has been seen by Beeld, Masilela, the bank's credit risk manager, says he was introduced to Boshoff in 2004 by Moeketsi at a meeting called to "form a Black Economic Empowerment group with Boshoff to get involved in coal mining".

That meeting led to the formation of Tswelopele.

R70 000 'to assist with advice'

Masilela says he never received any benefits from the company but concedes that in 2006 he received a total of R70 000 from Boshoff "to assist with advice".

"Boshoff gave the money as a gesture and did not specifically say it was for anything."

Masilela says he did not discuss "the money handed to me with anyone, as I did not feel comfortable about doing so".

He denies that he later used the money to refurbish his house at a cost of R30 000, saying he bore the costs himself.

He also admits the loan of the 4x4 bakkie after being in a car accident in March 2006, but says he only used for a short while.

According to Masilela, the "empowerment group" resigned on mass from Tswelopele in 2004 because of "Boshoff's style of doing business, Boshoff's business ethics, promises made by Boshoff and not kept... [and] non-accountability".

Masilela was unavailable for comment on Thursday.