The firm bidding to take over the holding company of failed airline 1Time faces a growing list of questions, including its links with the controversial Bhana family.
Pak Africa Aviation, the newly formed Pakistani-backed company based in Johannesburg, has made an offer of R15-million to buy the listed 1Time holding company from shareholders but its directors appear to have no aviation experience.
Although it claims on its website to have “an extensive background in the transportation industry”, Pak Africa Aviation forms part of a group specialising in textiles, foreign exchange and precious metals trading.
Details of the company are sketchy but it seems Pak Africa has been trying to gain a foothold in the local airline industry since late 2011 with the assistance of Fazel Bhana.
Before amaBhungane spoke to Bhana this week, he was listed on the company’s website as one of five directors. It was removed shortly afterwards.
Bhana has left a trail of controversial and disastrous business ventures in his wake. These include involvement in the failed mining investment company, Aurora Empowerment Systems, an ill-fated rescue bid for low-cost carrier Velvet Sky and, before that, in Amlac, a paint company, which was fined R12-million for insider trading in 2002 and delisted.
Bhana insisted that he was not a director of Pak Africa, although he is listed as such on McGregor’s company register database.
Responding to questions, Pak Africa chairperson Tabassum Abdul Qadir said Bhana was originally approached to broker an offer for the 1Time operating company, which is in liquidation, “due to his Velvet Sky … connection to 1Time”.
Bhana was employed by Velvet Sky as a consultant to negotiate African flying routes. At the time, Velvet Sky was also negotiating to buy a 30% share in 1Time but, by December 2011, Velvet Sky was facing a host of creditors and cash-flow issues. Bhana’s father, Suleman “Solly” Bhana, came in to “try and assist” the floundering airline.
Despite the Bhanas’ assistance, Velvet Sky was grounded and eventually liquidated.
At that stage, Fazel said, Pak Africa made a failed bid for the airline’s operating licence.
Pak Africa’s separate bid to buy the 1Time operating company was also rejected by the liquidators, although the bid for the holding company is still on the table.
Abdul Qadir told amaBhungane that, “due to the deal not being consummated”, Bhana was removed as a director.
But questions also have emerged about other associates of Pak Africa Aviation.
Mr Price Group connections
Also listed as a director was Malek Javed, whose correct name appears to be Javed Malik. His name was also removed from the company website on Wednesday.
Malik ran the Cobra Cash & Carry store in Crown Mines. According to credit records, there was a R235 000 debt judgment against him in 2009.
His profile on the Pak Africa site boasted that “Malek Javed” set up offices in 13 African countries and, under his watch, “the group became the proffered [sic] supplier to the Mr Price Group, and becoming [sic] the largest supplier and distributor of Pakistani textiles to Africa”.
Abdul Qadir said: “The judgment against Mr Javed Malik was taken over two years ago without his knowledge … he has instructed a leading law firm to apply for immediate recision of judgment … Mr Malik has an in-depth knowledge of trading in Africa.”
Mr Price’s chief financial officer, Mark Blair, said: “I have been able to establish that the party concerned supplied Mr Price Group many years back. However, he was never a preferred supplier and, in fact, was a minor supplier to one of our smaller divisions. The last order was approximately six years ago.”
Another name removed from the Pak Africa website on Wednesday was that of Hina Kassam, whose LinkedIn profile describes her as the co-founder and chief operating officer of ACM Gold.
ACM Gold is a foreign exchange and precious metals trading entity run by Pakistani Irfan Pardesi. According to its website, it operates in 11 countries, including South Africa.
ACM Gold’s South African licence was provinsionally suspended briefly in June following complaints to the Financial Services Board by clients. The company was cleared to continue operating, but the FSB’s Gerry Anderson said it had since asked for its licence to be voluntarily cancelled.
Abdul Qadir also appears to have a connection with ACM Gold, which the Pak Africa website says she was involved in forming.
Abdul Qadir said that Kassam was her sister.
“It is our intention to nominate her as a nonexecutive director on the proposed 1Time Limited board of directors once the transaction has been sanctioned by the regulatory authority.
“ACM Gold is part of the group of family businesses and has no direct relationship in Pak Africa Aviation. The group has a footprint throughout Africa and we will use this infrastructure to the extent that we need.
“ACM is … an award-winning forex brokerage known around the world.”
Abdul Qadir said African economic growth was stunted by poor transport infrastructure, including expensive airfares.
“It is our intention to build a truly African carrier,” she said.