/ 3 June 2024

BHI Trust Ponzi scheme: Hawks swoop on alleged kingpins

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Michael Haldane has been implicated in the police investigation into the failed R2.8 billion scheme. (Hawks)

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (the Hawks) has swooped on Global and Local financial advisor Michael Adam Haldane and Rubicon Trust director Sona Pillay — who had attempted to flee the country — in connection with their alleged role in the R2.8 billion BHI Trust Ponzi scheme.

Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale said on Monday that an investigation by the police’s serious commercial crimes unit had led to the arrest of Pillay, 54, at OR Tambo International Airport on Friday. He and 55-year-old Haldane are “implicated in the BHI Ponzi Scheme case”.

BHI Trust co-trustee Craig Warriner, 60, was recently sentenced to 25 years imprisonment after pleading guilty to 206 counts of fraud and one of contravening the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act for operating an investment scheme without a licence or being registered as a financial services provider.

His co-trustee Christian Ashcroft opened a case against Warriner after he lost money in the scheme and investors started asking questions.

More than 200 people, many of them pensioners, lost an estimated R1.6 billion in the scheme which Warriner told the court he had “managed irresponsibly” using investors’ funds to pay out fake returns. 

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Sona Pillay.

Mogale said Pillay was arrested on Friday “after he attempted to flee overseas where he was refused entry and sent back to the Republic of South Africa where he found the Hawks’ investigating team waiting for him at the OR Tambo International Airport … whilst Adam [Haldane] handed himself over on the morning of 3 June 2024”.

She said both suspects appeared in the Palm Ridge specialised commercial crimes court sitting in the Palm Ridge magistrate’s court on Monday where the matter was postponed for seven days for a formal bail application on 10 June.  The pair were remanded in custody.

Mogale said the Hawks’ investigation had linked Pillay and Haldane to the BHI Trust Ponzi scheme that started in 2008, “wherein individuals invested capital to the tune of over R2.8 billion with promises of generating profits exceeding interest of over 10%”.

“In typical Ponzi scheme fashion, BHI Trust scheme started to falter and failed to keep up with the promised returns on investment. The scheme utilised capital for payments to investors withdrawing their capital from BHI Trust as fictitious profits,” Mogale said.

“The elaborate misrepresentation by the scheme led to massive losses by the investors.”

Warriner has been in prison since his arrest in August 2023, culminating in his recent sentencing.

“It is expected that more individuals will be arrested in this case,” Mogale said.

Hawks Gauteng head Major General Ebrahim Kadwa welcomed the developments in the case.

“We are pleased with the progress made and we are looking forward to the finalisation of the case. The public is warned to treat any investment scheme that promises more than usual returns with scepticism,” he said.