Court to rule on scrap over disputed scrap metal

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A Chinese business owner and Pietermaritzburg police are locked in a battle over scrap metal, which has come to the high court.

Chinese national and scrap-metal dealer Pheng Zhong Jie, 42, who has been living and working in South Africa since 2008, has asked the Pietermaritzburg High Court to declare it legal for him to dispose of his remaining stock of scrap metal so that he may wind up his affairs and close his business, PPL Recycling and Trading.

Jie has also asked the court to stop the police from preventing him from selling the scrap metal and from threatening him with criminal prosecution if the stock is removed from the premises.

Wynford Compton, an attorney representing Jie, made the application on Jie’s behalf.

In an affidavit, Compton explained that Jie’s certificate of registration to sell second-hand goods expired in December 2011.

When the certificate expired, unbeknown to him, Jie had applied for a new certificate from an unreliable source.

In September this year, this certificate was found to be a forgery, which means that Jie had been illegally dealing in scrap metal for a period of two years.

“Because Jie cannot continue to operate the business, he desires to wind up and close down the business by disposing of the remaining assets (a stockpile of scrap metal) and utilising the proceeds to pay his debts and current creditors,” Compton said.

However, the police had issued Jie with a warning that if the scrap metal was removed from the premises and sold, he would face criminal action.

Compton said this had resulted in an untenable deadlock.

Compton said that after various discussions with the police, it had become clear they believed the scrap metal had been “attached” because of Jie’s failure to renew his certificate of registration and illegal dealings. This was the subject of a pending criminal case, which was why the scrap metal could not be sold.

However, Compton said this argument held no merit, because the scrap metal was never attached.

Jie is no stranger to the courts. In 2011 he was convicted of possession of suspected stolen property and was sentenced to five years, wholly suspended.

He was also fined R300 000.

Judge Trevor Gorven is expected to make a ruling today.

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