Durban - Already stripped of her Aston Martin and Mercedes-Benz, wealthy Musgrave businesswoman Nonhlanhla Hadebe, 49, found herself in the dock of Durban’s Commercial Crime Court on Tuesday charged with contravening the Banks Act by taking almost R86 million from “investors” in what was alleged to be nothing more than a pyramid scheme.
Hadebe - accused of being a distributor for South Africa’s biggest scheme, Travel Ventures International (TVI) - has been the focus of a Reserve Bank investigation for a number of years which resulted in the seizure of some of her assets last year.
In a dawn operation by the Anti-Corruption Task Force on Tuesday, she, her husband, Jabulani Hadebe, 47, her daughter, Hlengiwe Ngidi, 29, and son-in-law, Sibusiso Ngidi, 34, were arrested and charged with more than 10 000 counts involving investments in three schemes between March 2009 and September last year.
They were not granted bail and spent Tuesday night in Westville Prison.
The charge sheet before magistrate PM Govender was weighty, detailing every deposit taken over the years.
According to the preamble, the complainant is the Reserve Bank, represented by forensic auditor Eckhard Volker, who was appointed to audit Change Your Lifestyle Network CC, Thrice Divas Trading and Nonhlanhla Hadebe personally.
It is alleged that Volker found evidence they were conducting the business of a bank.
The charge sheet alleges that while Nonhlanhla Hadebe was the sole member of the two entities, the other three were employed by her and also used their bank accounts for transactions.
In essence, it is alleged, there were three schemes.
One was TVI through which “worthless” electronic travel vouchers were marketed for R2 700 each.
Then there was Legend Venture which, for between R5 000 and R35 000, offered membership in “worthless companies to be listed on the stock exchange”.
The third was Club Wealth Wheels “marketed under the guise of an Indian-based discount club for motor vehicle enthusiasts” which, for an annual fee of R2 500, offered discounts of US$150 (R1 500) to $225 on new cars “none of which appear to be available in South Africa”.
Essentially all required the recruitment of new members to get money back.
Prosecutor Ashika Haripersad said while the State was not opposing bail, because the offence fell under schedule five of the Criminal Procedure Act, the onus was on the accused to prove it was in the interests of justice that they be granted bail.
However, the defence team was not ready to proceed and the matter was rolled over until Wednesday morning.
When the Reserve Bank seized her assets, Hadebe put up a legal fight which she finally lost in March this year when her appeal was refused.
The bank now has to appoint a liquidator to sell the cars and furniture.