Business

Billionaire Wiese refunded after unauthorised rhino sale

Paul Burkhardt

Christo Wiese is just one of a number of potential buyers who've been refunded their deposits to buy rhino from SANParks.

Wiese is the chairperson and majority shareholder of Pepkor, an investment company operating retail stores in Australia, Europe and Africa. (David Harrison, M&G)

A company associated with billionaire Christoffel Wiese is among those that were refunded R14-million in deposits after a contract to buy rhinos from South African National Parks was canceled, a parks official said.

Professional hunter Jacques Hartzenberg had a deposit of R8-million refunded after the planned sale was found to be invalid, GC Dry, a parks board member, said in a phone interview on Monday. “Christo Wiese has an association with Hartzenberg,” he said. “It’s the same company.”

South Africa, home to most of the world’s rhinos, plans to relocate some of the animals from Kruger National Park to undisclosed sites to protect them from poachers, Environment Minister Edna Molewa said last month. This year 638 rhinos have been poached in the country, compared with a record 1 004 in all of last year.

Wiese is the chairperson and majority shareholder of Pepkor, an investment company operating retail stores in Australia, Europe and Africa. Hartzenberg is the owner of Chapungu Safaris Africa, which includes the Kalahari Oryx Game Reserve, according to a company website. He didn’t return a phone call or email seeking comment. Johan Maritz, manager at Kalahari Oryx, declined to comment. Sandra Jooste, a spokesperson for Wiese, said Wiese is currently out of the country and declined to comment further.

Wiese has a net worth of $4.7-billion and is ranked as South Africa’s fourth-richest man, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index.

Unauthorised commitment
The sales were “transactions that were based on the unauthorised commitment by a member of the SANParks executive, which exceeded the board’s delegated authority,” Dry said in an August 28 statement. “This member of the SANParks executive has subsequently been suspended, pending disciplinary action, and an independent forensic audit has been commissioned into this matter.”

Wiaan van der Linde, a hunter and safari company owner, had a R6-million deposit refunded, Dry said. “Those contracts are null and void, given they were signed without the approval of the board.”

The transaction with Wiese and van der Linde involved 240 rhinos, with van der Linde’s contract alone worth R40-million rand, the Sunday Times reported, citing van der Linde.

Sales of the rhinos may occur at a later date when a proper approval process is put in place, Dry said.

“Two of the buyers are reputable people and we might do business with them in the future as the process unfolds in a valid way and in a sound transparent way,” he said. “That will be coming into play again.” – Bloomberg

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