Mpumalanga billionaire Ramesh Joe Singh

PRETORIA - Billionaire coal baron, Ramesh Joe Singh, has lost his bid to stop the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) investigating allegations that he hijacked a company which owns a multi-million golf estate in Emalahleni.

Lahleni Lakes Golf Estate, a 1,130ha development in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga, was sold off-plan to investors who could buy sectional title units on it. But after years there has been no construction. Even the golf course designed by Ernie Els has failed to take off - everything has been put on hold because of the court case.

On Monday, Judge Christelle Bassoon ruled against Singh saying the CIPC could intervene on behalf of business owners who claim their companies have been "hijacked".

Singh had approached the high court in 2016 to interdict the CIPC from questioning him about claims by Johannesburg-based businessman Ralston Smith, that he stole two of his companies Finishing Touch Trading 204 and Lahleni Lakes.

In her judgment, Justice Bassoon on Monday said CIPC has a statutory obligation to maintain "accurate, up-to-date and relevant information concerning companies”.

She said: “CIPC is not time-barred from investigating the complaints in terms of Section 219(1) of the Act in that the fraudulent removal of Smith as a director of Lahleni and Finishing Touch constitutes a continuing wrong”.

In the court documents is an affidavit by a business consultant who acknowledges fraud in the takeover of the companies.

In his affidavit, Jan van Dyk said he “had a copy of the signature of Mr. Smith that I got somewhere, and made a copy of it and cut it out, gummed it in place on a mandate for resignation which (is) an attachment on the CoR 39 form”.

The CoR 39 is a standard CIPC notification form used for the notice of change of directors.

Van Dyk admits that he altered a similar form and emailed it to the CIPC to "resign" Smith as a director in Finishing Touch Trading 204.

After the court ruling, Singh’s representative Peet Erasmus declined to comment on the court decision.

One of the complainants, Smith, said he welcomes the court’s decision saying he is now looking forward to the CIPC investigation.

In recent times there has been a rise in complaints of company hijacking. It has been reported that over the years corrupt officials at CIPRO, acting with seeming impunity, have facilitated hundreds if not thousands of scams which have hit the South African Revenue Service, prominent companies, and smaller private businesses.

Singh is not new to controversy, Eskom is demanding R6.2 billion from him after his firm Just Coal supplied the power utility’s Tutuka Power Station with sub-optimal coal. The power utility was billed R5,8 billion for the poor quality coal, which put operations of Tutuka Power Station at risk.

Eskom has since cancelled the contract with Just Coal and has approached National Treasury “to jointly agree on suitable alternative mechanisms to source coal.”

In September last year, he stirred a national storm after he told the media that he had donated R500,000 to the ANC Youth League in return for a “political solution” to his mining company Just Coal’s contractual problems with Eskom.

It was unclear if Singh, who claims to be a pastor with spiritual powers which he says enabled him to raise his son from the dead after he drowned in Middleburg, will appeal the court ruling.

African News Agency/ANA