The National Consumer Commission (NCC) had not informed Auction Alliance boss Rael Levitt's lawyers of an application for a warrant for his arrest, his attorney said on Wednesday.
Dale Smiedt, of Smiedt and Associates Attorneys, said no indication from the NCC was received showing its intention to apply for such a warrant. He was responding to reports that Levitt would be arrested if he failed to appear at an NCC hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
In a statement, senior partner Alan Smiedt said summonses issued by the NCC were invalid. This was because they were not properly served, as required by the Consumer Protection Act and Criminal Procedure Act no 51 of 1977.
The NCC is probing claims that Levitt was involved in auction rigging, after businesswoman Wendy Appelbaum said she had been “duped” at an auction in December.
Smiedt said the NCC did not share the view that the orders were invalid, and this would need to be addressed in the “appropriate forum”.
The law firm had asked for notice of any application to the magistrate’s court for a warrant, because it intended making representations on the basis that the summonses were invalid.
The commission ruled on the Appelbaum matter last Thursday, finding Levitt guilty of bid rigging and fraud. It sentenced him to 12 months in jail or a R1 million fine, The Star reported.
Smiedt said this needed to be reviewed and the relevant papers were being prepared.
“In our view it is wholly inappropriate and unfair to subject Levitt to a hearing at this stage to deal with the very matters on which the NCC has already ruled.”
The NCC should have interviewed Levitt before the ruling, he claimed, because to seek these facts after the ruling was “assailable” in law. Regarding the sentence, the NCC did not have the right to impose jail sentences.
“In the circumstances and for the reasons stated above, we have advised the NCC that Levitt has sufficient cause not to appear before the NCC until such time as the challenge to the (Appelbaum matter) ruling of the NCC has been finalised,” Smiedt said.
The commission only found Levitt and Auction Alliance guilty of contravening certain aspects of the Consumer Protection Act.
“Neither Levitt nor Auction Alliance have been convicted of any offence, appeared in any court or been required to stand any trial,” Smiedt said.
The NCC could not immediately be reached for comment. - Sapa