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Cape Town -
Former Fidentia boss J Arthur Brown was left humiliated and defeated after authorities put his company under curatorship, he told the Western Cape High Court on Monday.
Testifying in mitigation of sentence, he said his relationship with the Financial Services Board (FSB) started out civil during their investigation into the company, but soon turned sour.
FSB inspectors, accompanied by policemen with automatic rifles, stormed into Fidentia's premises in November 2006 and accused him of obstructing justice and making threats.
He said he was treated like a criminal and told: “You are completely tainted. You stole widows' and orphans' money.”
Brown was recently found guilty on two counts of fraud, for misrepresentations he made in handling investments for the Transport Education and Training Authority and the Mantadia Asset Trust Company.
He was acquitted on seven other charges of corruption, money-laundering, theft, and fraud.
Brown said he tried to present options to the FSB that did not involve curatorship as he knew the effect it would have on investors, but these were ignored.
His life came to a standstill when his bank account and that of his wife and children were frozen.
“ (This was all because of the) vexatious allegation that I had smuggled money offshore... I was arrested on some 192 charges.
“Any friend I had, any business associate that dared stand up and tried to defend me, was either discredited in the media or their business was affected.”
Brown said he tried to set up another business with friends after the curatorship, to provide for his family, but the FSB found out about it and shut it down.
Following “massive media hype” he received letters from various organisations to say they had released him of his advisory directorship because of the potential damage to their brand.
He was also released from his position as a church elder and told: “It's not good for you to be associated with the brand.”
Judge Anton Veldhuizen interrupted Brown and said: “Not until the Lord has forgiven you,” causing the courtroom to erupt with laughter.
Brown said his family was torn apart. They lived on handouts and his wife and sons eventually moved to Australia in 2009 after threats to their safety. He had not seen his sons since then because of strict bail conditions.
He also testified about the difficulties he had in dealing with his mother's illness.
A visibly emotional Brown said his mother had been in hospital with colon cancer when he was first arrested in March 2007. He had been unable to send her to the United States for a new treatment because he did not have access to his money.
She found out about his predicament when someone left a magazine open on a story about Fidentia next to her bedside.
His father secured a bank-guaranteed cheque of R1 million for his bail, taken from his pension money, so he could see his mother, who had been asking for him.
Earlier on Monday, Brown said the purpose of taking the stand during sentencing arguments was not to apportion blame, but rather to take responsibility for his mistakes and share his side of the story. - Sapa