THE FORMER managers of Aurora Empowerment Systems and some of their family and friends have been ordered to repay over R15 million to the company’s liquidators.

Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann granted yesterday an order in the North Gauteng High Court in favour of Aurora’s liquidators against Sulliman Bhana, his son Faizel, wife Zubaida, daughters Shamilla and Feroza, as well as friends Mohamed Limbada and Zeenat Laher.

Bhana and his son were appointed as “financial advisers” when Aurora took over the running of the liquidated Pamodzi Gold mines in Springs and Orkney in 2009.

They allegedly obtained “investments” from “the Indian community” to keep Aurora running, but the loans were allegedly repaid with up to 100 percent interest, while the salaries of miners remained unpaid.

The liquidators alleged the investors were actually the Bhanas, their family and friends.

The court order set aside payments Aurora had made to the Bhanas and their friends between 2009 and 2010 for alleged loans they had made to Aurora.

The payments were made when Aurora was factually insolvent and while other creditors such as the workforce and Eskom were not being paid.

Yesterday’s court order will be the first in a series of similar applications to recoup close to R35m that Aurora had allegedly paid out unlawfully. It might take years and further expensive litigation to eventually recover the money.

Judge Bertelsmann refused to postpone the recision application against the Bhanas and their friends, saying they had raised no arguable defence against the claim.

He also turned down their application for leave to appeal and granted a punitive costs order against them.

The Bhanas maintained the monies were repaid long before Aurora was placed under liquidation in the ordinary course of business, which meant that the payments were unimpeachable.

They said they needed time to get access to the company’s financial records, so that they could prove the loans and payments had been legitimate.

An application by Pamodzi Gold’s liquidators to declare the directors and managers of Aurora personally liable for debts of R1.8 billion was postponed until March.

The liquidators conceded that they would not have enough time to reply to lengthy affidavits filed at the last moment by among others Aurora directors Zondwa Mandela, Khulubuse Zuma and Thulane Ngubane. They allege Aurora’s directors and managers destroyed the mines through mismanagement and looting.