Liquidator who stole R5m jailed for eight years

2017-08-31 14:32


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Johannesburg - A Johannesburg-based liquidator, who stole more than R5m from an estate under his control, apparently splashing out on overseas holidays, fancy cars, expensive soccer tickets and home renovations, has gone to jail for eight years.

Father of three, Ettiene Mauritz Venter, 52, entered into a plea bargain agreement in the Johannesburg Specialised Commercial Crime Court this week, in which he admitted the five counts of theft.

He was sentenced by Magistrate Philip Venter to 12 years imprisonment, four years of which were suspended.

According to the plea agreement, Venter confirmed that the State had substantial evidence against him.

Venter was the owner of Ventrust Pty Ltd and it was through the bank account of this entity, that he stole the estate’s money.

He was appointed by the Master of the High Court to handle the affairs of Joash Leasing CC - a property holding company.

Safire Insurance Company (Safire)  issued a bond of security in favour of the Master for the "due and proper performance" of Venter in his duties.

In November 2009, a property owned by Joash was sold on auction for R4.6m, plus VAT.

But instead of opening a bank account in the name of the insolvent estate, Venter deposited the money - a total of just more than R5m - into his Ventrust account in five separate transactions.

He then drafted a fraudulent liquidation and distribution account purporting to show a dividend to Absa, a secured creditor, of R3.8m, with interest, after payment of estate expenses.

Pleading remorse

This was confirmed by the Master - but Venter could not make the payment as it emerged that he had stolen the money.

Absa then turned to Safire and it had to pay out the estate. Additional estate administration costs were incurred after the theft was discovered and Venter's co-liquidator then demanded a further R1m from Safire to settle those expenses.

Safire's investigations confirmed that soon after he stole the money, Venter had paid R15 000 for tickets for a "Liverpool match" and R81 000 for a holiday in the Maldives.

In his written plea Venter conceded that he been in a  position of trust  and that white collar crime had an effect on business confidence in South Africa.

He said he had brought the profession into disrepute.

He said he was currently employed as a clerk and earned R10 000 a month.

His estate had been sequestrated, his company liquidated and certain assets purchased for his children with estate funds had been returned to the trustee of his estate.

He said in pleading guilty, he was showing remorse.

'Several more cases'

Safire CEO, Pierre Bekker, said Venter had been handling several hundred matters across South Africa and that a number of creditors had approached the company with claims.

"There are several more cases to finalise which are likely to lengthen Venter's existing sentence," he said.

"We are determined to bring offending appointees abusing the purpose of our suretyships to justice.  

"We encourage those who know of any such persons to immediately report to court bond providers and to the Master to ensure the profession is cleaned up and to ensure the interests of the public are protected at all times.

"We have adopted a zero tolerance policy against dishonesty and thieving," Bekker said.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  crime

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