Can Genesis Capital survive the Martin Levick fraud allegations?

2019-05-24 07:00

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Until recently, if you visited the website of well-known investment company Genesis Capital, you would have been "invited" to read "a few words on our founder" Selwyn Levick.

It was a tale of true entrepreneurship and feisty ambition as he grew his fledgling company into a reputable player in the local business game.

Levick senior's son Martin took over as chief executive of Genesis Capital Pty (Ltd) and the private equity arm Genesis Capital Partners, while his other son Garyd also worked in the family business.

The Levick legacy was strong in Genesis Capital, with Martin apparently keeping a framed photograph of his father in his office as part of a veritable shrine to the founder.

But then in April this year, the "curse of Fricker Road" struck and spectacular allegations of trickery, fraud and yarn-spinning enveloped Martin Levick and his empire came tumbling down.

Levick was provisionally sequestrated as victims came forward claiming over R700m against him, with other creditors waiting in the wings to pounce.

The sheriff came knocking on the doors of his Houghton mansion and his R180m villa on Clifton beach in Cape Town.

Off went the Aston Martin, the Kentridges on the walls and according to reports, there is still millions of rand worth of jewellery that has not been accounted for. The Hawks are also investigating cases of fraud against him.

Now the website page recounting Selwyn Levick's endearing business story has been removed from the Genesis Capital website as the company makes every effort possible to erase the Levick name from its legacy.

This as questions are arising around just how much Levick's colleagues at the company knew about his allegedly fraudulent frolics and if they were merely turning a blind eye to what he was up to.

As far away as they can get

Executives at Genesis Capital which employs brokers selling financial products mostly from Discovery, and Genesis Capital Partners which is the investment arm, have been at pains to distance themselves from Levick.

So much so that Genesis Capital Partners has swiftly renamed and relaunched a new corporate identity, reincarnating itself as Calculus Capital replete with a fresh new website and branding.

Genesis Properties, which deals in commercial, industrial and retail properties, has also been renamed to Integer Properties.

Genesis Capital's Managing Director Stan Melnick says the company is "most certainly" distancing itself from Levick.

"Insofar as Genesis Capital (Pty) Ltd and its subsidiaries are concerned, including Genesis Capital UK, Mr Levick has no current relationship with them other than a minority shareholding in and indebtedness to Genesis Capital (Pty) Ltd. As regards to Genesis Capital Partners (Pty) Limited, his relationship is limited to a minority shareholding," said Melnick.

"Immediately after we were alerted to the situation, we acted swiftly to secure Mr Levick's resignation as a Director and CEO of Genesis Capital (Pty) Ltd, and thereafter his suspension as an employee. We then instituted a disciplinary process which secured Mr Levick's resignation as an employee of Genesis Capital (Pty) Ltd."

Calculus Capital, which holds a stake in Kauai through Real Foods and in Reddam House through Educas, is also putting as much space between the business and Levick. It has two former CEO's of JSE-listed companies on its board in Larry Lipschitz and Myron Berzack. MD Darren Shur is running day to day operations.

"The various proceedings aforesaid have been instituted solely against Mr Levick in his personal capacity," Shur responded in an emailed comment.

"Mr Levick is a former director of Calculus Capital Pty Ltd ('the Company', formerly Genesis Capital Partners Pty Ltd) and certain of its subsidiaries. Mr Levick is not employed by or involved in the business of the Company or any of its subsidiaries. The Board of the Company does not intend commenting on legal actions instituted, or which may be instituted, against Mr Levick."

Email servers and offices

"It's a strategy that they’re employing and it is going to blow up in their faces," one of Levick’s alleged victims speculated about the attempts by Genesis Capital and Calculus Capital to cut all ties with Levick.

There are rumblings of litigation brewing against both entities but they deny this. Saul Shoot of Fluxmans Inc, who represents one of the claimants, has confirmed that he has been "instructed and/or approached  by several persons who have threatened legal action and/or are exploring legal action against the genesis entities".

News24 understands that there has been email correspondence between Shoot and lawyers for Genesis Capital raising concerns about Levick's access to the company's server and to its Fricker Road offices. It's alleged this continued for some weeks after Levick was removed as a director.

On the day the sheriff was at Levick's Houghton property on April 24, an IT consultant was at the house working on Levick's computer on behalf of Genesis Capital. The consultant was ostensibly there to disable Levick's remote access to his Genesis email address and to assist him with setting up a Gmail address.

"Mr Levick's access to our server was terminated as soon as he left, which is what prompted his request for assistance to set up a personal Gmail account," said Melnick.

"We have instructed employees that any contact or requests from Mr Levick, even if of a seemingly harmless nature, need to be reported to compliance."

There have also been suggestions that Levick continued to have access to an office at Genesis Capital after his colleagues became aware of the legal action against him, allowing him to continue to give the impression that he remained in control of the company.

"Whilst the disciplinary process was underway, Mr Levick occupied a separate office in the same building as that in which Genesis Capital (Pty) Ltd conducts business. It did not form part of Genesis Capital (Pty) Ltd's offices. Mr Levick vacated that office within several days of his resignation as an employee," says Melnick.

Meanwhile, Melnick says they are continuing to work with officials and are reserving their legal right to litigate against Levick.

"We have been liaising with the regulator regarding the removal of Martin Levick from the boards of some of our subsidiary FSPs regulated by them (Genesis Capital (Pty) Ltd is not an FSP and therefore not regulated by the FSCA). Mr Levick has not been a representative or a key individual on any of these FSPs for many years.

"We have been proactive with the regulators during this period for them to raise any concerns and/or provide any guidance. They have not indicated any concerns related to the activities of these businesses other than to seek confirmation of Mr Levick's removal from the various boards. We will continue to engage with them proactively."

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