Pay back millions, Aurora managers told

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Aurora Barbed Wire REUTERS Photo: Reuters.

Pretoria - The former managers of Aurora Empowerment Systems and some of their family and friends have been ordered to repay over R15 million to the company's liquidators.

Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann on Tuesday granted an order in the High Court in Pretoria in favour of Aurora's liquidators against Sulliman Bhana, his son Faizel, wife Zubaida, daughters Shamilla and Feroza and friends Mohamed Limbada and Zeenat Laher.

Bhana and his son were appointed as “financial advisers” when Aurora took over the running of the liquidated Pamodzi gold mines in Springs and Orkney in 2009.

They allegedly obtained “investments” from “the Indian community” to keep Aurora running, but the loans were allegedly repaid with up to 100 percent interest, while the salaries of miners remained unpaid.

The liquidators alleged the investors were actually the Bhanas, their family and friends.

The court order set aside payments Aurora had made to the Bhanas and their friends between 2009 and 2010 for alleged loans they had made to Aurora.

The payments were made while Aurora was already factually insolvent and while other creditors such as the workforce and Eskom were not being paid.

Tuesday's court order will be the first in a series of similar applications to recoup close to R35 million Aurora had allegedly paid out unlawfully. It might take years and further expensive litigation to eventually recover the money.

Judge Bertelsmann refused to postpone the recision application against the Bhanas and their friends, saying they had raised no arguable defence against the claim.

He also turned down their application for leave to appeal and granted a punitive costs order against them.

The Bhanas maintained the monies were repaid long before Aurora was placed under liquidation in the ordinary course of business, which meant the payments were unimpeachable.

They said they needed time to get access to the company's financial records so that they could prove the loans and payments had been legitimate.

An application by Pamodzi Gold's liquidators to declare the directors and managers of Aurora personally liable for debts of R1.8 billion was today postponed until March next year.

The liquidators conceded that they would not have enough time to reply to lengthy affidavits filed at the last moment by among others Aurora directors Zondwa Mandela (Nelson Mandela's grandson), President Jacob Zuma's nephew Khulubuse and Thulane Ngubane.

The R1.8 billion claim includes all proceeds from the sale of gold, equipment, scrap metal and other assets and will be used to pay the outstanding salaries of former mineworkers and other creditors.

The liquidators alleged Aurora's directors and managers had destroyed the mines through mismanagement and looting.

Zuma blamed the late filing of his opposing papers on the fact that he had recently changed attorneys, while Mandela's attorneys withdrew because of a lack of funds and only recently came on board again.

The liquidators have accused the Aurora directors of using delaying tactics to ward off the day of a finding against them.

Much court time was for example spent on an application to force the liquidators to provide the directors and managers with a copy of the liquidation enquiry proceedings, but apart from Zuma, none of them had yet bothered to come and pick up the 40,000-plus pages, the court was told.

Sapa



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