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The luxurious lives of Sharemax bosses

Nov 13 2011 11:03 Jaques Pauw

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Johannesburg - This is the luxury life of the two top managers of collapsed property syndication company Sharemax - while thousands of investors have lost most, if not all, of their money.

City Press has traced about R250m of assets owned by trusts and companies of Sharemax’s former managing director, Willie Botha, and his marketing manager, Andre Brand.

Botha and Brand were, for almost a decade, at the helm of Sharemax as about 40 000 people invested an estimated R5bn in the company’s 50 property syndicates.

The Reserve Bank ruled in May last year that Sharemax had contravened the Banks Act and had illegally collected deposits from investors.

City Press can reveal this week that one of Brand’s acquaintances, Wietz Nell, has handed incriminating documents and information to the police’s Hawks unit.

The Hawks would not say whether they have launched an investigation against Botha and Brand.

In the documents, Brand accused Botha in a memorandum of illegally pocketing at least R9m of money intended for investors.

Brand also alleged that Botha had, over a period of four years, pocketed R53m in “commission” from a Sharemax front company. Brand demanded a R24.5m share from Botha.

Botha this week ignored multiple attempts to get comment.

Brand said this week that Nell had obtained the documents dishonestly, but he did not deny their veracity.

Brand said that he had in the meantime cleared his complaint with Botha and that he withdrew any allegations against him. He said he now believed the money was paid legally to Botha.

Tomorrow, a group of Sharemax investors plan to bring an urgent court application to declare Sharemax bankrupt, and to freeze the assets of Botha and Brand.

Among the assets that the investors want frozen is Botha’s luxury yacht, which he keeps in the Egyptian port of Hurghada in the Red Sea.

The Italian-designed Scuba Scene is apparently worth between R120m and R150m, and is wholly owned by the Willem Botha Family Trust.

The boat has its own website and is described as “43 metres of classic nautical beauty and luxury”.

It says the Scuba Scene is a “true marvel of design, technology and style to provide all its passengers with an aesthetically pleasing masterpiece”.

The investors also want to ask the high court to prevent Brand from selling his 3 000 hectare game farm near Thabazimbi in Limpopo.

The game farm, Thaba Motswere, has been valued at R79m, and has giraffe, eland, kudu, gemsbok, cheetah and leopard.

The farm’s lodge alone cost Brand an estimated R20m to build and resembles a five-star hotel with all possible amenities.

Brand is desperate to sell the farm and even considered a price of R21.5m last month.

Botha has an equally luxurious game farm in Marken in Limpopo that is thought to be worth even more as it has the Big Five – elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and cheetah.

Botha lives in a double-storey villa in the exclusive Silver Lakes Estate in Pretoria. Brand recently signed a contract to sell his mansion in Mooikloof in Pretoria for R15m.

Botha was in August “relieved” of his duties and resigned as director. Brand has also since left the company.

In September, the Reserve Bank put Sharemax under statutory management, ordering Sharemax to repay its investors, but there was no money left to do so.

The documents that City Press obtained shows that after Botha and Brand had left Sharemax, they were still paid R15m commission.

The company that is managing Sharemax on behalf of the Reserve Bank, Frontier Asset Management and Investments, did not respond to queries this week.

A forensic auditor, André Prakke, studied the documents obtained by City Press and concluded that there was evidence of money laundering, theft and fraud.

Prakke says that 80% of the money that was invested in Sharemax is gone.

Prakke has investigated Sharemax for many years and has submitted statements about the company to the high court.

He says that the commission that Brand refers to in his memos to Botha has never been revealed in any of Sharemax’s property portfolios.

- City Press 

property  |  investing  |  sharemax  |  fraud
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