Maria Oosthuizen, financial administrator at the Old Johannesburg Warehouse Auctioneers, told the Johannesburg Specialised Crimes Court how the company bosses panicked in April when they realised Elizabeth Nyathi,53, had allegedly duped them by making fake payments to settle items worth R721579 she purchased from four auctions.
The antique goods included seven Rolex watches, diamond and gold rings, kitchenware and furniture, which Nyathi had bought between January and April. About 90% of the goods that the auction house sells are from private individuals and, once sold, takes a percentage from the sale.
“We lost R720 000. We had to stand in for that loss and find the means to pay back the sellers. It’s a small industry and our reputation was at stake,” said Oosthuizen.
The company had to seek bank loans, one of the auctioneers, Filip Taylor Parkins, told The Star in May.
Oosthuizen added that the loss had forced the company to apply strict payment measures even to their loyal customers. This meant clients could only collect their goods when the money paid was reflected in the auction house’s bank account instead of only relying on proof on payments.
She told the court Nyathi had duped her.
“She created an impression of being honest. I trusted her,” said Oosthuizen.
Nyathi’s last purchase on April 22 triggered suspicions.
“I received a call from the company’s owner that she (Nyathi) had been robbed. Two days later, I realised money for the purchase had not reflected in our bank account and we picked up her EFT tracing numbers were invalid.”
Nyathi was arrested when she came to the company to discuss the matter.
She initially pleaded guilty but later changed her plea, claiming her accountant cousin Givemore Karambamuchero had submitted the fake payments.
The trial continues.