Appeal court rules in confidence trick case

Johannesburg attorney Julian Bartlett will get back R1,86-million of about R3-million he lost in a confidence trick involving an offshore sale of gold bullion, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled on Wednesday.

Bartlett was tricked into paying R3,1-million in 1999 into the trust account of fellow attorneys Hirschowitz and Flionis, who were not part of the scam.

An acquaintance of Bartlett’s, Karen Hardaker, persuaded him to raise a ”goodwill” deposit, which was supposed to eventually earn him a commission of up to $8-million on the transaction involving the Swiss government gold refinery.

However, the bubble burst when Hardaker phoned Bartlett from overseas to say there was no gold sale.

He contacted Flionis, who indicated the money had been transferred out of the trust account.

Bartlett sued Flionis’s firm, alleging it was negligent in dealing with the money in their trust account without being reasonably satisfied as to the identity of the depositor and the purpose of the deposit.

The Johannesburg High Court found for Bartlett and awarded him damages of R3,1-million.

Flionis’s firm appealed to the Supreme court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.

The Bloemfontein court ruled on Wednesday that Flionis had indeed been negligent, and that the firm was therefore liable to Bartlett in damages.

”Overarching all of this is the fact that while Bartlett, like any individual, was bound to take reasonable steps to safeguard his own interests, Flionis was burdened with the obligation to exercise special care, responsible, as he was, for the safeguarding of others’ money in his trust account,” the judgement read.

However, the SCA found Bartlett had been contributorily negligent.

The Appeal Court found Flionis 60% at fault in relation to Bartlett’s loss, and the latter 40%. The award of R3,1-million in damages, made by the high court, was

reduced to R1,86-million. – Sapa

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