A company by any other name...

A businessman in Laudium near Pretoria has been registering dozens of companies that seemingly impersonate well-established corporations, industry groups and even religious authorities.

Shaheer Noormohamed registered about 40 companies, mostly late last year, that have names that sound a lot like those of well-known companies, business organisations and political parties.

He also created what sounds like his own versions of various local Islamic organisations, including the South African hajj and halaal authorities.

Noormohamed’s family controls Nismedia, the publisher of nine community newspapers across Gauteng. They also own Glow TV, a DStv channel targeted at the Indian diaspora.

Apart from these real businesses, one of Noormohamed’s registered companies is the Gautrain Management Agency.

The real Gautrain Management Agency is a creation of statute and not a registered company.

It had sent the sheriff after Noormohamed after discovering his duplicate company, said Gautrain spokesperson Barbara Jensen.

“They could not be found at the listed address and we will now most probably instruct our attorneys to appoint an investigator to find the director(s),” she told City Press.

Also among Noormohamed’s companies are Bidvest Group and Proudly Bidvest, which are not actually part of the JSE-listed Bidvest Group.

Imperial Holdings is also certain that Noormohamed’s Imperial Auto Auctions is not one of its many subsidiaries.

The Reinet Investments registered in South Africa is Noormohamed’s, unlike the Luxembourg-registered one headed by Johann Rupert.

Other companies registered by Noormohamed last year are Dangote Group and Dangote Cement.

Sephaku Cement, the South African company in which Nigerian multinational Dangote holds an interest, told City Press that these were “fraudulent”.

Noormohamed also registered AB Inbev SA as well as Anheuserbusch Inbev, which are not to be confused with the multinational megabrewer that recently merged with SABMiller.

Even the Gupta family got their main investment vehicle knocked off as Oakbay Resources Energy, which is missing the “and” in the real company’s name.

The SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) was alarmed to learn that there is now another Santaco registered on the national companies database.

The taxi council’s spokesperson, Thabisho Molelekwa, said: “I can categorically state that the registration number ... does not belong to Santaco. Neither does it belong to any of the entities of Santaco. It is therefore a fake.”

Transaction Capital said it had not encountered S A Taxi, which looks a lot like their minibus finance subsidiary SA Taxi, but with no space between the S and the A.

Business Leadership SA said it was unaware of the new Business Leadership SA registered by Noormohamed in July.

“It is the first time that this matter has come to our attention. We will follow up with our legal advisers,” the advocacy group said by email.

The Economic Freedom Fighters did not respond to questions about the other Economic Freedom Fighters, a nonprofit company registered by Noormohamed in October.

He also registered a company called EFFYL on the same day, which could conceivably be confused with the opposition party’s youth league.

This echoes an older Noormohamed company called ANCYL, which was named in December 2013.

This company, which shares the acronym with the governing party’s youth league, also has a logo using the ANC’s green, yellow and black colours, which was used in an advertisement in the SA Property Review in 2015.

An apparently paid-for profile of Noormohamed that was published in the same edition describes him as “soaring up the corporate ladder”.

A picture of him alongside the profile carries the caption “director of companies”.

South Africa’s various Islamic organisations seem to be a favourite target as well.

South Africa’s quota for pilgrims to Mecca is administered by the SA Hajj and Umrah Council.

This is not the same as Noormohamed’s SA Hajj and Umrah Committee.

The SA National Halaal Authority is also not the same as Noormohamed’s SA Halaal Council.

City Press has no evidence that these companies have been used in fraudulent dealings or, in fact, for any purposes.

Contacted for comment by phone and email, Noormohamed said he would provide answers to questions by Monday afternoon.

He did not.

Noormohamed has been in the news before, mostly connected to a mass eviction at a building in Pretoria managed by his property company Nazbro Properties.

There have also been media reports about his getting shot in the leg during an altercation at a supermarket in Laudium in 2015.

Tricky situation

The Companies Act disallows the registration of companies with the same name as an existing one, or a name that is “confusingly similar”. It also cannot be the same as or similar to a registered trademark.

The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) told City Press that it was the existing company’s responsibility to guard its name.

“The CIPC cannot determine whether or not the names listed are ‘confusingly similar’ or ‘misleading’ upon the registration of the name,” said CIPC spokesperson Tshiamo Zebediela.

“There is not enough information as part of the name reservation process to make such a decision, and we can only confirm registered companies and close corporations against our registry.

“Whether it is confusingly similar or misleading depends on a wide range of factors. The adjudication of names lies with the Companies Tribunal,” said Zebediela via email.

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