Aurora director faces music almost 10 years later

The liquidators of the infamous Aurora Empowerment Systems have launched a sequestration application against Aurora director Thulani Ngubane after he resurfaced to make a “strikingly similar” bid to take control of the Gupta-linked VR Laser.

Ngubane approached the VR Laser business rescue practitioners with offers to buy the company and later to sign a “management agreement” accompanied by a multimillion-rand cash injection.

These deals fell through as Ngubane’s company, Blain Capital Solutions, repeatedly failed to come up with the cash it claimed to have.

Bank guarantees given to the business rescue practitioners were rejected and viewed as “suspicious”.

In an affidavit filed at the Durban High Court this week, Aurora liquidator Deon Botha said this was “strikingly similar” to what had happened at Aurora between 2009 and 2011 when it gained control of the former Pamodzi Gold’s mines out of liquidation.

Aurora’s directors included former president Jacob Zuma’s cousin Khulubuse, former president Nelson Mandela’s grandson Zondwa and Ngubane.

Aurora managed the Pamodzi mines under an interim management contract signed with the liquidators of the mines but instead presided over a collosal asset-stripping exercise that led to R1.4 billion in damage and losses of gold. The Aurora directors were held liable.

“It is difficult to fathom that the respondent [Ngubane] would have assets to the value that exceeds the total indebtedness ... I respectfully submit it to be apparent that his estate is hopelessly insolvent,” said Botha in his affidavit for sequestration.

The offers Ngubane made for VR Laser, however, indicated that “there exists a prospect – which is not too remote – that assets for distribution to the creditors ... may be found”.

Botha cites the various letters Ngubane had written to the VR Laser business rescue practitioners about the offers to take over the company.

In these Ngubane claimed that Blain Capital Solutions, of which he is the chairperson, had Saudi-Arabian backers and an operational footprint in several African countries.

Botha does not necessarily believe that the VR Laser offers were real, but argued that a sequestration order would allow Aurora’s liquidators to probe Ngubane’s finances.

When the Aurora directors were held personally liable for the damage to the Pamodzi mines, Ngubane petitioned the Supreme Court of Appeal, but his applications were rejected.

He was, nevertheless, never pursued for money.

“We previously took no action against the respondent ... as our investigations revealed that the respondent was a man of straw and that it would serve no purpose to expend monies on the recovery of funds when, it was anticipated, such attempts would yield no return.”

Ngubane’s offers for VR Laser followed the same modus operandi of Aurora and other previous bids to gain control of distressed companies, said Botha.

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