Sygnia CEO Magda Wierzycka facing complaint of attempted extortion

JSE-listed African Equity Empowerment Investments Limited (AEEI) and its CEO, Khalid Abdulla, have laid a complaint of attempted extortion at the Table Bay Police Station against Magda Wierzycka, CEO of asset management company Sygnia.

According to a statement issued by AEEI on Tuesday, this follows Wierzycka allegedly having approached Abdulla to buy back the shares that AEEI, its majority shareholder Sekunjalo Investment Holdings and Abdulla have in Sygnia "at a substantially lower price".

"Failing this, she threatened to continue to write negative stories about Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, AEEI and its associated company, AYO Technology Solutions," according to the AEEI statement.  

It states that, collectively, the three entities own approximately 3.5 million shares.

In the same statement, Sekunjalo's chair Dr Iqal Survé said: "We will have no hesitation in pursuing this to its fullest."

According to Abdulla, AEEI's legal counsel advised that "as a responsible corporate citizen and in terms of South African law, we are obliged to report such actions to the police".

He said evidence handed to the police includes text messages and emails.

The AEEI statement notes that Wierzycka also writes a column for Business Day and its online platform BDLive. The statement claims that on several occasion she made "defamatory and false statements about the Sekunjalo Group, including its investee companies and in particular AYO Technology Solutions, Sagarmatha and against several of the group’s senior executives".

City Press reported in late-August that more than half the board of Ayo Technology Solutions resigned, including CEO Kevin Hardy and chief investment officer Siphiwe Nodwele.

"This development suggests that Ayo's flagship deal – to acquire 30% of British Telecoms SA (BTSA) for R1bn from its own parent company – has, for some reason, collapsed," the Sunday paper wrote at the time.

Ayo received R4.3bn in funding from the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) when it listed on the JSE.

Fin24 was not able to reach Wierzycka for comment. She did, however, appear to show her reaction on Twitter:

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