Pensioner fears life savings lost

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Antony Marais, who has been accused of fraud, leaves the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court. Photo: Gcina Ndwalane

 

Durban - An ailing pensioner who was allegedly conned out of a large portion of his life savings by fraud-accused accountant Antony Marais just wanted to know if he would get his money back, his daughter told the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court on Thursday.

“I tell him we’re doing our best to make sure he does,” she said.

Unable to walk properly and struggling with bouts of confusion, Arthur Pimenta, 89, has not been called to testify in Marais’s trial, but acting magistrate Melvin Govender has admitted his witness statement into evidence.

Marais, of Durban North, faces seven counts of fraud amounting to R6 million. He has pleaded not guilty.

It is alleged that he had a pattern of “rolling funds” and withdrew money for his personal use. Pimenta was one of the first of his clients to raise the alarm about his alleged fraudulent activities.

In her evidence-in-chief, led by state advocate Clinton Pillay, Pimenta’s daughter, Cecelia Torino, explained that her father had awarded her power of attorney more than five years ago.

He had consulted her in all his financial undertakings.

He had sold his La Lucia home and, in 2009, had asked Marais to invest R700 000 from the sale with Investec.

“I was present at the meetings between my father and Mr Marais and he told us he could get a better interest rate if he invested the money on my father’s behalf,” Torino told the court.

The agreement between Pimenta and Marais had been for the money to be invested for two years, but when her father had tried to access it in 2011, Marais had not been “forthcoming”.

To date, Pimenta had not seen “a single cent”.

He was a cautious man who struggled to make decisions on his own.

He preferred to enlist the help of experts and that was why he had trusted Marais with his investment.

Torino became tearful when, towards the end of her evidence, she was asked whether she had anything to add.

“I just think it’s shocking when an elderly person, or anyone for that matter, has their money taken from them,” she said.

During cross-examination by Marais’s attorney, Satch Morgan, it was put to Torino that the promise of higher interest implied that the investment carried with it some level of risk, but Torino said Marais had advised her and her father that the investment was “low key”.

“My father isn’t a high roller, he likes to make safe investments,” she said.

“Sometimes investment brokers give bad advice,” Morgan told her.

“It happens. I see what you’re saying,” she responded.

The trial continues.

bernadette.wolhuter@inl.co.za

The Mercury


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