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Johannesburg - Julius Malema could face a jail term or a R500 000 fine for allegedly hiding his assets. In the latest blow to the expelled ANC Youth League leader, the curators of his estate have accused him of being in contempt of court for failure to disclose his assets.
Malema – who owes more than R16 million in taxes – was placed under provisional curatorship at the beginning of the month after the taxman believed he was hiding his wealth.
Last week curators Cloete Murray and Aviwe Ndyamara approached the Pretoria High Court, saying the once-powerful politician had “flagrantly disregarded and refused to comply” with the preservation order that the court has imposed on him.
The order forces him to declare his assets.
Should the court concede to the request, Malema could be sent to prison, receive a suspended sentence, or be ordered to pay a R500 000 fine, according to the application.
The only way Malema can overturn the order is to make a full disclosure of his assets within 24 hours of the order being served on him.
Malema could not be reached yesterday but his lawyer, Tumi Mokwena, confirmed the application. He had been informed on Thursday.
“We will not get into the merits of the case, but we will be opposing the matter, as there is no merit to the case,” Mokwena said yesterday.
But the court papers tell a different tale.
In an affidavit attached to the application, Murray says Malema, despite the demand, has failed to make full disclosure of all his assets.
“(Ndyamara) and I cannot be expected to launch these proceedings in the ordinary course… It is clear that the respondent does not respect the order…This is hampering (Ndyamara) and my ability to carry out the terms of the order as it is incumbent upon us to do.”
He explains how he and Ndyamara had taken steps to implement the preservation order.
The preservation order gives the curators the right to interview Malema, who is “obliged” to furnish them with full particulars of all his assets and how they were acquired.
But according to Murray, Malema has not been forthcoming.
After the order was granted, a meeting was convened with Malema and his attorneys, Mokwena and Floyd Legodi, on March 7.
The minutes, which Murray includes in his application, reflect that Malema would make a full disclosure of assets by close of business on March 14.
But Malema missed the deadline.
E-mail correspondence continued between Murray and Mokwena.
Murray then told Mokwena that Malema needed to immediately make full disclosure of his assets and liabilities, giving Malema two more days – until March 22 – to make the disclosure. Murray states that he warned Mokwena that he would take steps to “force compliance with the court order”.
By March 22 there was still no disclosure and Malema was advised that he would face charges of contempt of court.
“Accordingly (Ndyamara) and I have no option but to make this application for the appropriate relief,” Murray states in the application.
Murray made reference to the SA Revenue Service (Sars) application for a preservation order of Malema’s assets, where certain assets attached by the sheriff at Malema’s Polokwane home could not be found during an auction to sell them.
There was no sign of the R250 000 Breitling watch, designer clothing and finer things that were part and parcel of the lavish lifestyle that the politician once enjoyed.
Last year a forensic report by audit firm PwC revealed how Malema splurged almost R380 000 on designer clothes – including R291 000 on clothes at an Italian boutique and more than R31 000 at Louis Vuitton.
Instead, the assets that were auctioned off had fetched a mere R54 800 – leading Sars to apply to the Pretoria High Court for a sequestration order against Malema, which would uncover his hidden assets, and later to get a preservation order.
Malema intended to oppose the sequestration, but the matter was moved to the unopposed roll after Malema’s lawyers failed to file their answering affidavits in time.
Yesterday, however, Mokwena said they would still be opposing the sequestration and would file their affidavits in due course.
Aside from the sequestration, the contempt of court application is the umpteenth setback for Malema in recent weeks.
Last week, as the National Prosecuting Authority’s Asset Forfeiture Unit attached the R4m Schuilkraal farm in Limpopo, sheriffs of the court were auctioning off his black Viano Mercedes CDI30 and other household possessions attached at his rented Sandown home.
The seizure of the farm is not linked to Malema’s tax debt, but relates to the ongoing money-laundering and racketeering charges against him.
The charges relate to multimillion Limpopo state contracts allegedly fraudulently awarded to a company linked to Malema.
Murray, however, also referred to the Schuilkraal farm in his application, saying it was another example of Malema’s knack for dissipating his assets. “In addition, Sars dealt with previous actions by (Malema) deemed to be dissipation of assets in relation to the farm Schuilkraal,” said Murray.
In its preservation order application Sars said the Schuilkraal Farm in Limpopo, which was purchased on behalf of Gwama Properties owned by Limpopo businessman and Malema’s business partner, Lesiba Gwangwa, was actually purchased by Malema’s Ratanang Family Trust.
“One of the reasons for Sars bringing the application on an urgent basis was to ensure that (Ndyamara) and I could take control of (Malema’s) assets to prevent any further attempts by (Malema) to dissipate or hide assets to the detriment of the general body of creditors and Sars. It is imperative that the respondent urgently be ordered to make full disclosure of his assets as, until such disclosure is made, he may continue to dissipate assets,” said Murray.
He added: “Until the identity of such assets is confirmed and their whereabouts, the second respondent and I are unable to secure such assets.”
Approached for comment this week, Ndyamara referred all queries to revenue spokesman Adrian Lackay, who in turn noted that the revenue service supported the application by curators.
“Any attempts to obstruct the administration of justice may have a short-term gain but ultimately will be futile for any tax payer,” he said.