Rugby players scammed
||04 November 2010 07:00
Devi Sankaree Govender
|Show: ||Carte Blanche Consumer|
Zimbabwean born rugby player Tonderai Chavhanga is a rising star. He began his career in Bloemfontein, got chosen to play for the Western Cape Stormers and now plays for the Lions and the Springbok side. He cuts a streetwise figure on the field, but in 2004 he got hooked in a major investment scam, allegedly run by mastermind Pieter Louw and his recruiter Kobus du Toit.
Tonderai Chavhanga (Lions Wing): 'I met Kobus at a rugby game and he reminded me that we had met a few years back when I had started my career in Bloemfontein. And then he also told me that he was going to our church in Stellenbosch. So, that sort of made me warm up to him even more.'
Four months after they met, Kobus started talking investment opportunities to Tonderai and several of his team mates.
Tonderai: 'They had secured some huge investment funds from overseas investors and they needed money to register in order for them to access those funds. And they didn't want to go to the banks because they thought that they would give fellow Christians the opportunity to be blessed.'
Devi Sankaree Govender (Carte Blanche Consumer presenter): 'How did he explain it to you?'
Tonderai: 'He said it was going to go to platinum mines somewhere in Johannesburg.'
Devi: 'The returns were exceedingly high and Tonderai saw dollar signs when he was promised a million rand return on his investment in just six months.'
Tonderai: 'This opportunity needs to be seized now and it's best that you do it now else you might miss the boat.'
Convinced by the offer, Tonderai paid over R50 000 - which he had to deposit into Pieter Louw's account.
Many of Tonderai's Western Province team mates followed suit. Kobus very cleverly infiltrated sports clubs and churches, where he won over the trust of members and convinced them to buy into his scheme.
Pastor Philip Pretorius, who was a pastor in Stellenbosch, was targeted by Kobus Du Toit way back in 2002.
Philip Pretorius (Pastor): 'Kobus du Toit, who came to our church... we became actually good friends and, um, awesome guy... and he came with this opportunity that international money that is coming loose with amazing returns.'
Devi: 'How did he pitch the opportunity to you?'
Philip: 'Well, he basically described it as an amazing opportunity for investment, that they actually have got hold of the World Bank and from the World Bank they would basically... they're getting a lot of money for specific projects in South Africa that they've already identified - and he would name them - which are relevant names.
The alleged conmen claimed to be financial instruments of the World Bank. We wrote to the World Bank to verify this and they responded by saying that they had no business dealings or collaboration whatsoever with the ZudGroup or its directors Kobus and Pieter.
Devi: 'Philip, who trusted Kobus as a member of his congregation, did not question the deal - he simply paid over R35 000 with the promise of an enormous return in just three months.'
Philip: 'They wanted the money immediately and I said, 'We want paper work.' 'No, no, it is three months and it's almost a done deal, you guys are at the end of the whole thing.' So it is almost like... it was kind of weird how they went about it. And I said, 'But Kobus, nothing like this is done like this; we need to have paperwork.' 'No, but we're almost there, trust me, trust me...' And a lot of scripture was used to manipulate people - that's the sad thing.'
Both Philip and Tonderai called and waited for the promised payout, but as the months slipped by their hope faded.
Tonderai: 'Kobus was always like, 'You know what, the money is coming in tomorrow, ' 'The money is coming in next week,' 'Peter is at the bank,' 'Peter is speaking to the banker,' 'Peter has gone to Switzerland,' ... it was always an excuse after an excuse.'
Philip: 'There is always an awesome excuse with international laws and international bylaws and ,where I became [sceptic] is, as they were saying they will pay out, they will pay out, they were increasingly asking other people that we don't even know about. So they just kept on expanding their whole fraud scheme.'
Kobus was equally elusive when we tried calling him - his phone was always on voicemail.
[On phone] 'You have reached the mailbox of Kobus du Toit.'
But we did manage to get hold of his partner Pieter.
[On phone] Pieter Louw: 'Good afternoon.'
Devi: 'Hi, Pieter please.'
[On phone] Pieter: 'You're speaking to him.'
Devi: 'Hi Pieter, you are speaking to Devi Sankaree Govender from Carte Blanche. How are you?'
[On phone] Pieter: 'Fine and you?'
Devi: 'Fine, thank you.'
We explained that we wanted an interview with him and Kobus.
[On phone] Pieter: 'Ja, that's fine.'
Devi: 'Is that fine?'
[On phone] Pieter: 'Ja.'
But when we phoned him on the day of the arranged appointment to confirm a time - he had a change of heart.
Devi: 'When can we meet today?'
[On phone] Pieter: 'We are not going to meet.'
Devi: 'Why not?'
[On phone] Pieter: 'I don't want to.'
Devi: 'But you said that you would meet with me? I asked you twice.'
[On phone] Pieter: 'I thought about it, and no I won't, thank you.'
But this brazen duo have never been big on honouring arrangements. In 2009 they approached none other than former police commissioner George Fivaz's company to do their payouts to their debtors.
George Fivaz (George Fivaz Holdings): 'He entered into contracts with all the debtors by means of a release form whereby he offered them a final settlement amount. And those were contracts with all the people... all of those people signed. So it was at that time already very clear that nothing will come out of the promises of times 10... times 20 percent.'
Devi: 'But it soon became apparent that these alleged conmen did not have the money to honour these contracts and may simply have used George Fivaz's company to lend credibility to their cause. But when Pieter was arrested and kicked out of Switzerland for allegedly not paying his hotel bills, which totalled thousands of euros, George decided to call it a day.'
George: 'Towards the end of last year when he was arrested in Switzerland I circularised a letter to hold the debtor saying, 'We are going to withdraw because his part of the contract is not in place. We are not in a position to assist with the independent role we are supposed to play.''
Looking through the list of investors, it includes several rugby players, including wheelchair bound Andre Venter. And it appears that they even fleeced Kobus's own mother. The investments range from R5000 to R2-million. This list alone totals R68-million. It's also alleged, in a separate scam, Pieter conned retired securities banker John Burger.
John Burger (Investor): 'He suggested he owned something that he didn't own and that it was a worthwhile investment. And it was later found he didn't own it; he didn't own any of the stuff he said he owned.'
Devi: 'How much did you lose?'
John: 'A lot - a retirement amount.'
George Fivaz has subsequently reported the alleged fraud to the Hawks and the police, who have launched an investigation.
Devi: 'Tell me about his lifestyle. Did he look like a man who owed people a lot of money?'
George: 'He is really a man with expensive tastes; he is wearing expensive clothing, expensive watches, driving expensive motor cars.'
We decided to take a look at how alleged mastermind Pieter lives and found his address to be in this upmarket estate.
Devi: 'With hundreds of people having lost millions - this is where Pieter is living it up... here, [on screen] in this mansion in Johannesburg.'
John's decided not to press charges, and both Philip and Tonderai have written off the money, but they hope that their stories will serve as a warning to others.
Tonderai: 'I think, you know, there's that famous saying of 'if it is too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true'. I also didn't really do any research. I think when I got this opportunity at the time I should have done research.'
Philip: 'No paperwork, don't invest. There must be a legal way of doing it. If somebody pushes you, saying, 'It must be now,' then you know it is a warning sign because, anything that is legal and anything that is right that has depth of security, they will be patient with.'
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:While every attempt has been made to ensure this transcript or summary is accurate, Carte Blanche or its agents cannot be held liable for any claims arising out of inaccuracies caused by human error or electronic fault. This transcript was typed from a transcription recording unit and not from an original script, so due to the possibility of mishearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, errors cannot be ruled out.