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Durban - An international fraud and counterfeiting syndicate worth hundreds of millions of rand operating in Durban has been blown open by a brazen espionage attempt.
The Sunday Independent can reveal that businessman John Roselt, a man embroiled in a legal skirmish with global industrial giant Atlas Copco, is at the centre of the drama.
The syndicate is alleged in court papers to have been run by Roselt, in concert with his staff at a Durban company, APX Solutions.
They are alleged to have defrauded Atlas Copco, as well as about 40 top South African companies, using counterfeit industrial parts manufactured in China under the brand of Atlas Copco.
Atlas Copco is a global group headquartered in Sweden and worth billions of dollars. It produces compressors, construction and mining equipment.
He had reportedly commissioned Durban private investigator Brad Nathanson to break into a Sheriff of the Court’s storage facility and steal a hard drive which had been cloned from Atlas Copco.
Vital information on the hard drive allowed the ring to poach clients from the global company by undercutting their quotes.
Nathanson promptly notified the police, who halted the clandestine operation.
It is understood that an internal fraud investigation into an Atlas Copco employee in Durban uncovered evidence of the counterfeiting syndicate being run from Roselt’s business.
Last month, the industrial giant secured an Anton Piller order against Roselt’s companies on the strength of evidence uncovered during their internal probe. This allowed for the search and seizure of vital evidence that forms the crux of civil litigation against Roselt.
An Anton Piller order is a court order that provides the right to search premises and seize evidence without prior warning. It prevents the destruction of relevant evidence.
During the raid, computers and servers from Roselt’s companies were seized and copied.
Other physical evidence, including Atlas Copco parts and machinery, was confiscated and held at a Sheriff of the Court’s storage facility in Boksburg.
In an alleged attempt to destroy evidence, Roselt and his staff hired Nathanson.
Speaking to sister paper, the Sunday Tribune, Nathanson said that his manager was approached by a woman last week, identified as “Melissa”, who hinted that they wanted a seized hard drive stolen. As talks developed, Nathanson dealt directly with Roselt, the woman’s boss.
Melissa Ganesh was formerly employed by Atlas Copco and the focus of the internal investigation.
“I had a series of conversations with this man, who indicated that three of his staff members in Durban had removed sensitive information, specifically Atlas Copco’s entire customer database, and placed it on his server.
“He told me that the server, as well as other physical evidence, had been seized by the sheriff and he wanted me to remove it. If it was returned to him or destroyed, he wasn’t concerned,” he said.
Nathanson said he agreed to the job, and notified the police to set up a sting.
“I am a man of integrity, and this is not something that I do,” he said.
In a string of e-mails sent to Nathanson, Roselt attaches various pictures of the seized drive, as well as an inventory of seized parts.
In a recorded phone call with Nathanson, he confirmed that his staff in Durban had stolen sensitive information.
“While Terence was employed by me, he had access to Atlas Copco’s server and he was dumping information from their end drive server without me knowing it. He was also sending around customer lists from Atlas Copco in my company,” Roselt said. “Melissa also sent some documents from Atlas Copco here unlawfully.”
Approached by the Sunday Tribune, Roselt denied he had secured the services of Nathanson to steal a server and other confiscated evidence, even when confronted with details of the phone call.
Atlas Copco’s general manager declined to comment when he was approached by the Sunday Tribune.