John Ellis outside the Durban High Court, where he was fighting the liquidation of his company. He died on Thursday. Picture: SANDILE MAKHOBA

Durban - John Ellis, a director of the company which allegedly tricked investors out of more than R70 million with claims that they were developing an “Aids cure” nutrition pack, died on Thursday. Earlier in the day he appeared in the Durban High Court in relation to the final liquidation of Edge To Edge Global Investments.

The family has reportedly said that Ellis died of a “heart attack”, although the cause of death remains unknown, with the police saying no inquest has been opened.

Ellis appeared in court this week alongside his Pretoria-based business partner, Jan Louw, as they opposed their shareholders’ application for the final liquidation of the company.

The company was placed under initial liquidation late last year when the shareholders secured an order to initiate liquidation proceedings against the company over allegations of fraud.

According to The Mercury, on Thursday Greg Harpur SC, for the shareholders, argued that Ellis and Louw’s only way of continuing business was to “persuade other unsuspecting members of the public to put money into this worthless company”.

He also argued that the shareholders’ millions had been wasted on “extravagances” like expensive cars, houses, and even Ellis’s daughter’s wedding, which cost R2.4 million.

Advocate Farouk Moosa, for Edge To Edge, claimed that the company had a patent for an “Aids cure” which was not on the market because of the provisional liquidation order brought against the company last year.

Jabulani Mabaso, one of the shareholders who brought the application against Ellis and Louw to liquidate Edge To Edge, said he was shocked to learn on Friday, while he was in court, that Ellis had died.

He said Ellis had “seemed like his usual self” in court on Thursday, although he added that stress had clearly taken its toll on Ellis over the last year.

“He was one of the best salespeople I have ever come across,” said Mabaso.

Mabaso was drawn into the business at the beginning of last year by his friend, a chief financial officer, who had also become a shareholder.

He said that he had become involved because of his experience of family members living with Aids, and because Ellis and Louw were able to produce a report by Grant Thornton, a company which claims to be “leaders in… tax, assurance and specialist business advice”.

Mabaso was given samples of the nutritional supplement which he said was manufactured by Nutritional Holdings.

Nutritional Holdings has had a revolving door of directors in its 10-year history, with both Louw and Ellis listed as being directors twice, most recently from July 2012 to February 2013. Furthermore, one of the shareholders in Edge To Edge, and reportedly the driving force behind the application to put the company into final liquidation, Durban businessman Andrew Pinfold, is listed as an active director of Nutritional Holdings.

Mabaso says the supplements appeared to be legitimate. “I gave it to some people I know who were really suffering and couldn’t eat. But after they took the supplement, their CD4 counts increased and they could eat.

“But they (Ellis and Louw) only gave us a month’s supply,” he said.

He said that Ellis and Louw appeared to be “uncontrollably extravagant” with money that was not their own, and “only used a tiny portion of the R80 million for its intended purpose”.

The family refused to comment.

Sunday Tribune