Convicted rapist and murderer Thabo Bester, who escaped from prison on 3 May 2022, has been running a scam construction company called Arum Properties with celebrity doctor Nandipha Magudumana.
The couple convinced several people to pay millions of rand for construction projects, but never delivered the goods.
Arum Properties clients told GroundUp soon after signing on and paying their deposits, they started to realise something was wrong.
We have a recording of a phone call between Bester and a client of Arum Properties from two weeks ago.
Bester and Magudumana have since fled their rented mansion in Sandton.
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We spoke to several people who had encounters with Arum Properties over the past year.
Bester was introduced to them, most often by Magudumana herself, and went by the name of TK Nkwana. He signed legal documents using a driver's licence and ID document with an ID number that does not exist on Department of Home Affairs records.
One person told GroundUp they met "TK" in July 2022. They were offered payment to fly to Cape Town and take pictures posing in houses supposedly being renovated by Arum Properties. But they realised something was wrong and declined.
"TK" used social media accounts linked to Magudumana, including Arum Properties and I Media, to approach models or people with large social media followings.
In at least one instance, someone was asked to travel to Cape Town at their own cost to audition for a purported Netflix show called Hot Property Chick.
'Women in Property'
In August 2022, Arum Properties hosted a "Women in Property" brunch at Magudumana's rented mansion in Hyde Park. The event was attended by several Johannesburg businesswomen.
"In celebration of women's month, Arum Properties would like to treat you, a pioneer in the property industry, to an exquisite brunch and all things property," the invitation read.
Attendees were offered services from Arum Properties, which quoted up to R3 million below other companies in the industry for the construction of luxury homes. But clients, who signed with Arum Properties, said they did not get their money's worth.
"TK" took care of day-to-day operations, while Magudumana was busy at her practice. Meetings with "TK" would often take place in broad daylight in public places.
The clients were completely unaware they were dealing with Thabo Bester.
They told GroundUp administrative processes at the company were sluggish. Line items would be added to invoices without consultation and there would be endless delays. The actual construction was outsourced to subcontractors and little work was done.
According to people we spoke to, "TK" was difficult to work with and hot-headed, especially when clients asked for clarity on budgets and schedules.
He was also difficult to get hold of because he kept using different cellphone numbers.
GroundUp has seen contracts signed between Arum Properties and clients.
The contracts mention Arum Properties (Pty) Ltd, but this company does not exist on the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) database. Arum Holdings (Pty) Ltd does exist and Magudumana is the sole director.
The website for Arum Properties is not working, but an archived copy from 2021 shows a portfolio of construction projects. The pictures have been copied from elsewhere on the internet.
Magudumana and Bester's mysterious relationship
After GroundUp reported Bester was alive, he and Magudumana fled the mansion they were renting in Sandton.
The Sunday Times reported the couple had been paying R40 000 per month in rent, but were behind on their payments.
The property manager told GroundUp the couple had also rented the house next door, which was being renovated by Arum Properties. The landlord had approved the renovation and had been led to believe the house would become Magudumana's new wellness clinic.
Last Monday, armed men arrived at the mansion to collect belongings left behind by the couple.
According to the Sunday Times, Bester was living a luxurious life after escaping from prison.
A watch worth R1.5 million was found on a bedside table after Bester and Magudumana vacated the house, the Sunday Times reported.
There are also indications Magudumana was involved with Bester's 21st Century Media scam, which he ran from inside prison in 2018.
Earlier this month, GroundUp published an article about how Bester scammed people into believing he was Tom Motsepe, the chairperson of 21st Century Media, which was made to look like a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox.
In the wake of our reports, the sole director of 21st Century Media (Pty) Ltd, Phumudzo Thenga, released a statement saying she had been scammed by Bester and Magudumana.
Thenga said she had lost money in the business, and she had been scammed into making payments to Magudumana's company, Optimum Medical Holding Group.
Arum Holdings (Pty) Ltd was registered as a company in 2017.
While Bester was still in prison, Arum Holdings made payments into his prisoner bank account, according to payment receipts submitted to the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.
Magudumana had approached the High Court in May 2022 after it had been reported Bester had died in his cell.
READ | Inside the lavish home Dr Nandipha Magudumana shared with rapist Thabo Bester and her daughters
She had collected the body found in the cell two days after the fire and had taken it to a morgue in Soweto, but it had been confiscated by the police for further investigation.
In court, she asked for the body to be returned to her.
In a court affidavit, Magudumana said she was Bester's customary law wife and provided an affidavit from her father as proof of lobola negotiations.
But Magudumana was, according to Department of Home Affairs records, already in a civil law marriage with Dr Mkhuseli Magudumana at the time.
The law does not allow for people to enter into customary law marriages if they are already in a civil law marriage. (It is possible Home Affairs records had not yet been updated to reflect a divorce, but we are unsure of this.)
GroundUp asked the Department of Home Affairs, the Gauteng Department of Transport and the police to respond to questions about Bester's dealings after escaping from prison but received no response at the time of publication.
NOTE: In an earlier version of this article, the headline read: Thabo Bester, Magudumana Nandipha made millions from construction company scam. It has been corrected to: Thabo Bester, Nandipha Magudumana made millions from construction company scam. News24 apologises for this error.