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Top businesspeople duped

Jan 29 2012 10:58 Mpho Sibanyoni

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Johannesburg - ANC bigwigs Zola Skweyiya and Aaron Motsoaledi, and top businesswoman Wendy Luhabe are among several people who invested millions of rands in a scheme based on what appears to have been gross misrepresentation.

The names of these high-profile people were allegedly used to lure more people to pump money into Lontoh Coal with a promise of huge returns once it listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Investors are now accusing Lontoh Coal of duping unsuspecting people into buying shares in the company – the company said it had a shareholding in mining companies. But an investigation by investors and responses from the mining houses this week revealed that Lontoh Coal did not own shares in any mines.

Investors also told City Press that Lontoh Coal chief executive Tshepo Kgadima promised them a 5% commission if they brought in new investors. But Kgadima this week was adamant that the company, which was started in 2006, owned shares in mines, adding that he had a fleet of 70 trucks and employed 140 drivers.

A list of Lontoh Coal investors shows that more than 90 people invested R11m in the firm.

Skweyiya, who is South African ambassador to the UK, and his family invested R3.6m, while Luhabe pumped in R160 500 and Health Minister Motsoaledi put in R1 000.

Angry investors said Kgadima would meet potential investors, sell them the idea of buying shares and promise that Lontoh Coal would list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Dr Nkululeko Skweyiya, the ambassador’s nephew, said the veteran politician and his wife, Thuthukile, invested R1.6m, while the Skweyiya family trust pumped R2m into the company.

“Tshepo Kgadima told us that he was raising funds to list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on November 28. But when the deadline came, he pushed it forward to March 2012,” said Dr Nkululeko Skweyiya.

Dr Motsoaledi’s spokesperson, Fidel Hadebe, said the minister was “not willing to talk about his private matters in public, including financial issues”.

Lontoh Coal’s website (www.lontohcoal.com) boasts that it owns coal mines in Zimbabwe and Piet Retief in Mpumalanga.

However, the bosses of the mines said Lontoh Coal did not have a stake in the mines.

Rainor Robinson, the managing director of Zimbabwe’s Liberation Mining, denied that Lontoh Coal owned shares in his company, saying “there is currently no relationship” between the companies.

“Lontoh has never owned and does not own any stake in Liberation Mining,” he said.

“We entered into several agreements with Lontoh Coal, which were intended to result in Lontoh Coal acquiring 51% equity in Liberation Mining in return for agreed levels of funding. The proposed joint venture was short-lived and by June 2010 Lontoh began failing to pay various suppliers and contractors,” Robinson said.

Aaron Ntuli, the director of Piet Retief-based Kwasa Mine, said Lontoh Coal was only a customer of the mine.

“After negotiations that started in 2010, Tshepo Kgadima last year told us that Lontoh was still preparing to buy Kwasa Colliery this April,” Ntuli said. “We have an agreement to supply Lontoh with coal and anthracite.”

Ntuli was upbeat that Lontoh would eventually acquire a stake in Kwasa. “The mine is available and if they are ready and put down money on the table, they will take it,” he said.

Kgadima insisted he owned shares in the mines and claimed that the document that listed the names of the shareholders was stolen from him.

He said some of the shareholders had in the past been able to sell their shares privately and made a return of between 40% and 70% within a year.

“If you ask me if there is any company that has given their investors a 40% return, I would say I don’t know,” said Kgadima.

Dr Nkululeko Skweyiya said he refused to disinvest – after advice from Kgadima to do so – because he did not trust Kgadima’s advice.

But Kgadima said Dr Nkululeko Skweyiya had no reason to cry foul because he had advised him to disinvest.

“When Lontoh Coal lists, Dr Skweyiya will never have to work a day in his life. The Skweyiyas have made a 1000% return,” claimed Kgadima.

Kgadima said all shareholders were free to trade their shares.

“As we prepare to list on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, I am the only barred from trading my shares for three years,” he said.

Investor Thembi Tulwana said she met Kgadima through a friend and he delivered a presentation promising that the company would list on the JSE in October 2010.

She said the listing never materialised, and Kgadima ducked and dived when asked to organise a shareholders’ meeting.

Tulwana said her friend tried to sell his shares, but Kgadima ignored the request. She had not gone to the police because she was still hoping to recover her money.

Tebogo Taukobong, who invested R10 500 and recruited Luhabe to invest as well, said his credibility was now ruined because Luhabe was unlikely to trust him.

Lontoh Coal has parted ways with former chief financial officer Grace Sexwale and former chief operating officer Phillip Xaba because of a fallout with Kgadima.

Investors said the company had never held an AGM to update them on the status of their shares.

- City Press 

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