Businessman convicted in one of biggest Western Cape fraud cases

(Supplied)
(Supplied)

Cape Town – A Cape Town businessman whose scheme resulted in SARS losing R250m was on Monday found guilty of fraud, racketeering, money laundering and reckless trading.

The Western Cape High Court found Johannes Erasmus van Staden guilty on 35 of 184 counts.

Marc Schoeman, Gerhard Botha and Gary Wybo Newmark were acquitted.

The court found Van Staden conducted a multi-million rand fishing business as a front for submitting false VAT returns between 2005 and 2008. 

The State described it as one of the largest fraud cases ever prosecuted in the high court.

Judge Anton Veldhuizen said he was satisfied that Van Staden unlawfully managed the enterprise.

He said it was clear he “lived in luxury” on the money from the SA Revenue Service.

The money was used for numerous luxury vehicles, two farms, game, an aeroplane and a flat for his daughter – all registered in a family trust. He also chartered a luxury jet to Mauritius for a family holiday.

Veldhuizen described Van Staden as a “very bad witness”.

“He was evasive and relied on his memory failing him. He gave contradictory evidence and at times, lied.”

Van Staden sat stony-faced in the dock throughout proceedings.

The court found Schoeman, a chartered accountant who received R37m for his services, to be a good witness.

“He seldom visited the offices of his client and saw, what was by all appearances, a wealthy and healthy company,” said Veldhuizen.

There was nothing pointing to his involvement in the scheme.

The court also found Botha to be a good witness.

It said Botha was not intricately involved in the daily running of the company and it was not satisfied the State had proven its case against him.

Botha could hardly contain his relief when he was acquitted. He laughed, smiled and rubbed his eyes. At one point, he and Schoeman squeezed hands.

The NPA brought a confiscation application on Monday. It would be heard in November.

Van Staden was taken into custody until a bail application on Tuesday. A date for sentencing would then be set.

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