/ 5 November 2008

Court grants sequestration order against Fidentia boss

The Cape High Court on Wednesday granted a final order of sequestration against ''hopelessly insolvent'' former Fidentia boss J Arthur Brown.

The Cape High Court on Wednesday granted a final order of sequestration against ”hopelessly insolvent” former Fidentia boss J Arthur Brown and his wife, Susan.

It also emerged on Wednesday that Brown’s legal team will probably launch a high court bid in the next few days to have all the criminal charges against him scrapped.

The sequestration order, sought by the liquidators of the Fidentia group, was handed down by acting Judge President Jeanette Traverso.

She said the liquidators had shown that the Browns were ”hopelessly insolvent” and that their liabilities exceeded their assets.

She also said that it was clear that the Browns’ conduct cried out for proper investigation by a trustee.

”I have little doubt that the trustee may well recover some assets for the disposal or the benefit of the creditors,” Traverso said.

”It is clear that monies disappeared from one entity to another and that there are offshore trusts and companies to which, in all probability, funds have been siphoned.”

She said although Brown claimed his assets exceeded his liabilities, he had not told the court what these assets consisted of.

She rejected his claim that he was entitled to more than R40-million ”owed by Fidentia in terms of fees”.

Traverso also dismissed Brown’s argument that the matter should have been referred for oral evidence, which Brown had claimed would allow him to put the liquidators’ statements ”to the test by suitably qualified forensic experts”.

Traverso said the Browns maintained they had already, in August 2007, appointed a team of forensic accounting investigators.

”More than a year has elapsed and the respondents have failed to place any evidence from an accounting expert before the court,” she said.

”If there was a real dispute about the applicants’ claim, a forensic expert could swiftly have dealt with it in an affidavit. This was not done.”

Later, she referred to Brown’s ”so-called team” of investigators.

In a sign of displeasure, Traverso awarded the costs of one of the postponements in the matter against Brown’s attorney, Rashad Khan, to be paid ”de bonis propriis”, or from his own resources.

Though Brown was not in the high court to hear Traverso’s ruling, he was in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court half an hour later for the postponement of two of the criminal cases against him.

There, Khan told magistrate Vusi Mhlanga that Brown’s legal team had written to the Scorpions demanding that all charges be withdrawn on the basis that Brown’s constitutional rights had been ”tampered with”.

Alternatively, they had asked the Scorpions that all the charges against Brown be consolidated in one case, and that a deadline be set for the completion of investigations.

If the response was negative, they would launch a high court application, Khan said.

Prosecutor Bruce Morrison told Mhlanga that Khan had set a 5pm Wednesday deadline for a reply.

The Antheru matter was provisionally postponed to March 2 next year, and the Teta matter to December 10, for a date for a high court appearance. — Sapa