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Durban - A bank, a Durban law firm and one of its clients have all fallen victim to a conman – known only as Alex Nortey – who seems to have done a runner with about R700 000.

Documents in an urgent application in the Durban High Court detail how Nortey used a Nedbank account to fleece a man selling his Umhlanga flat out of the proceeds of the sale, by using his own e-mail to feed through the wrong account information to the attorney handling the transaction.

The drama over the missing money began in August this year, the day before the deal on the flat at 705 Lighthouse Mall was finalised and the property was registered in the new owner’s name.

In an affidavit which came before Judge Mohini Moodley on Monday, Johnston and Partners conveyancer Vanessa Williams said an e-mail had been received from the seller of the property, Colin Bird, using his usual e-mail address, requesting that the proceeds, about R1.2 million, be deposited into his “other” Nedbank account.

The e-mail – which forms part of the court papers – begins: “Hi Allison (the employee handling the matter). Thanks for the updates. I want the balance of the purchase price paid into my Nedbank account after registration.”

He then goes on to ask if this is in order and what he needs to do.

The law firm forwarded him the necessary documentation which “Bird” filled in with the Nedbank account details and reflecting his future address as being “Berlin, Germany” with what appeared to be an international telephone number.

The money was then transferred into this bank account.

A few days later, the real Bird wrote to the lawyers instructing that the money should be paid into his Standard Bank account in the name of his company.

“There was an exchange of correspondence and that’s when we realised that a fraud had been perpetrated,”said Williams.

She went with her client to the nearest Nedbank branch and a manager there would only disclose that “the majority of proceeds had been withdrawn” but refused to divulge any other information about the account.

A case of fraud was opened with the police and the law firm launched an urgent application in the high court interdicting the bank from paying any further funds out of the account.

Nedbank finally disclosed that the account was in the name of Alex Nortey and his address was in Park Road, Parktown, in Johannesburg. The bank only had a passport number (G0825422). The account had been opened in 2010, but bank records from 2009 reflected that Nortey had previously lived at an address in Yeoville.

In order to have the money released, the firm needed to prove that it had served the court papers on Nortey.

The owner of the law firm, Andrew Johnston, said Nortey could not be found.

In a further application for permission to serve notice by way of “substituted service” in The Star newspaper, Johnston said the Sheriff had gone to the Parktown residence, but a Mr Moyo said he had been living there for four years and did not know any Alex Nortey. The police and a tracing agent had also been unable to find him, “leading to the suggestion that he is in hiding and has got wind we are looking for him”.

On Monday, when the matter came to court, Judge Moodley ordered that the interdict be made final and that the remaining money in the frozen account be paid to the law firm.

The Mercury