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Cape Town - The Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court will hold a formal inquiry into the many delays in trying a couple accused of fraudulently soliciting investments in the development of farmland.
Carien van Tonder, her husband Louwrens, and their business Tomstar Ventures 777 CC face two counts of fraud, alternatively theft, before magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg, but have not yet pleaded.
According to the charge sheet, the Van Tonders allegedly duped Durbanville investors Frederick Bieldt and Janene Engelbrecht into investing R100 000 each in the development of land on the farm Klipriviersval, near Meyerton, in Gauteng.
Prosecutor Simone Liedeman alleges that the couple falsely informed the victims that Tomstar Ventures had the exclusive right to develop the land, that it was risk-free, and that the Van Tonders were waiting for municipal approval for the development.
The development was to yield a R285 million profit, of which the two investors would receive 0.5 percent.
Liedeman alleges that the R100 000 investments were instead reinvested in a tract of land called Knopjeslaagte, without the knowledge or consent of the investors.
She also alleges that the Van Tonders had no right to develop land on the farm Klipriviersval.
The hearing was scheduled to commence this week, but was delayed because of the withdrawal of legal aid defence attorney Hailey Lawrence.
Lawrence told the court she had intended to present the court with a plea of guilty on behalf of Carien van Tonder.
She said the plea would have been based on information provided by the wife, but that she had since been given different information “which had delayed the matter” and Van Tonder now wished to engage a privately-funded attorney.
Asked for an explanation, Carien Van Tonder said: “I initially thought the idea of a plea of guilty was great, let's go for it, but I afterwards remembered more and gave Ms Lawrence a second version of what had happened.
“Then I realised that all the blame was being piled onto me, which I did not like.”
She said an “advocate-friend” had undertaken to take on her case free of charge, and she now wished to engage him.
The magistrate said there had been too many delays in the commencement of the case, caused mainly by Carien van Tonder.
She said Van Tonder had no right to delay the start of the case unreasonably, and an inquiry would be held on October 8 to establish whether the delays had been justified or not.
She said the Van Tonders were out on warning, as opposed to bail, and she warned that if the court ruled after the inquiry that any of the delays had been unreasonable, Carien Van Tonder's privilege to be out on warning would be revoked, and she would then have to raise money for bail or remain in custody.