Moganberry Govender, 70, from Isipingo, was one of hundreds of investors who lost their money to a Ponzi scheme allegedly run by Mervyn Dennis and his sister MaryAnne Peter more than 15 years ago.
Dennis and Peter appeared in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court yesterday, charged with 2500 counts of fraud in an alleged Ponzi scheme. The pair convinced pensioners to invest their money with promises of good returns on the stock exchange.
Magistrate Simphiwe Hlophe yesterday ruled that the court would no longer accept delays in the case, which has been on the court roll for nine years.
Hlophe granted an application by the defence to have the case adjourned to get certain documents on condition that the trial proceeds on May 20.
He was, however, not happy with the adjournments, saying the complainants had waited 15 years for justice.
Dennis and Peter changed legal representatives several times over the years, being given time to look at the documents each time their representation changed. Yesterday they were represented by attorney Riana Naidoo.
“It’s on record that advocate (Paul) Jorgensen, who came on board last year, had received a docket and the transcripts, and indicated that he was ready for the trial date to be set. The case dates back from March 24, 2010, and today it has been on the court roll for nine years. The persons to be blamed for the delay are the defence,” said Hlophe.
“It’s a serious and complex case and, yes, the defence needs enough time to prepare, but nine years of delays is not necessary. Whether you have attorneys or not, we will proceed (on May 20),” Hlophe told Dennis and Peter.
Govender, the first person to open a fraud case against Dennis, is expected to be the first witness to testify in the trial. He said he was beginning to lose hope of ever getting justice until the trial date was set yesterday.
The former police officer took a package and invested R400000 of his R800000 pension payout through Dennis’s company, Global Investments, in 2003.
He remembers walking into Dennis’s offices at 320 West Street and being convinced that his money would grow.
“There were certificates all over and I was convinced it was a genuine company. I was planning a family holiday and was hoping that the returns would help me realise that. Little did I know that I was going to lose all my hard-earned money,” said Govender.
“I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014 and it added to my stress. Luckily my daughter has been taking care of us. It makes me angry that this man is living a comfortable life. I thank God that I am going to testify about what happened. Some have died while waiting for justice,” he said.
In 2016, Dennis, of Malvern, told the Durban Regional Court during a trial-within-a-trial, where the defence challenged the validity of a search and seizure of documents from his offices, that crucial documents that would have proved his innocence, including the “handsome” payments investors had received in cash, went missing during the raid.
The State alleges that Dennis started Global Investments in 1998 and encouraged investors to invest, with a promise that he would invest their money and get them excellent returns. Instead, he allegedly used the R139 million taken from people to fund a lavish lifestyle. It is alleged that only about R5m was invested on the stock market, R61m was used to repay investors, and the rest was spent on gambling, jewellery and cars.