A Cape Town businessman — whose daughter‚ an international model‚ raised eyebrows after getting an unsolicited “gift” of $15.3 million from an admirer — has lost another bruising round of litigation in court.
Gary van der Merwe failed to convince the High Court in Cape Town to place a company already under liquidation — Zonnekus Mansion (Pty) Ltd‚ in which his mother was until recently the sole director – under business rescue.
Judge Patric Gamble also ruled on Monday that Van der Merwe‚ his 23-year-old daughter Candice and 75-year-old mother Fern Jean Cameron be prevented from any further attempts to place the company under business rescue without the permission of a senior duty judge.
This is the fourth time that Van der Merwe has tried to have the firm placed under business rescue‚ a tactic viewed by the court as trying to frustrate the liquidators rather than restoring the company to solvency.
Candice van Der Merwe attracted the attention of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) after claiming that an unknown Arab admirer‚ whom she met on a private modelling visit to the Plantation Club on the Indian Ocean island of the Seychelles‚ had deposited nearly R200-million in her bank account. The transaction was flagged by the Financial Intelligence Centre.
In litigation that followed‚ she was described by the courts as an “attractive and vivacious woman who‚ prior to 2013‚ earned a modest living from a modelling career”. Authorities suspected the money had originated from her father who has been engaged in litigation for years with tax authorities.
Judge Gamble said in his ruling on Monday that the island jaunt had involved a “fantastical tale of serendipitous wealth”.
Candice purchased an Audi R8‚ a Range Rover Evoque and a home in the suburb of Fresnaye‚ Cape Town‚ allegedly worth more than R100-million.
Zonnekus Mansion was registered as a private company in 1999 and owns five properties‚ including a partially developed residential one on the Dennegeur Estate in Somerset West‚ three residential properties rented out in Milnerton and the “jewel in the crown” Zonnekus Mansion.
The mansion is an estate of some 8000 square metres on the beach at Woodbridge Island‚ close to the mouth of the Milnerton lagoon‚ and is estimated to be worth R30- to R50-million. “The stately residence… which commands endless views of Table Bay‚ was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and built in 1926 by Sir David Graaff‚” read Monday’s judgement.
“Van der Merwe told the court during argument that he has lived in the property for more than 20 years and it is clearly his most treasured possession: a castle which he will defend to the bitter end with every sinew of war available to him.”
Van der Merwe had argued that Zonnekus Mansion was available for occasional rental for social occasions such as weddings and parties. The property was advertised as a “premier conference and events venue” capable of accommodating up to 150 guests or available to rent for 16 guests on the Airbnb international website at R96 604 per day.
“I am of the view that the company in liquidation does not conduct any business‚” said the judge. The court found that Van der Merwe’s proposed business rescue plan was “significantly short on detail”.
Van der Merwe was the sole shareholder in the company but‚ since 2004‚ the entire shareholding vested in the Eagles Trust. In June 2013‚ SARS launched an investigation into the tax affairs of the company‚ Van der Merwe‚ his daughter and other linked taxpayers. SARS obtained a provisional order preserving assets belonging to various entities.
In March 2014‚ Judge Owen Rogers made a final preservation order against the company and Van der Merwe. SARS then instituted action against Van der Merwe‚ Candice and the company‚ claiming R42-million.
Assets of the company included helicopters‚ fixed wing aircraft and more than a dozen vehicles – none of which can be disposed of without permission by the court.
Standard Bank then applied for a provisional order of winding up in respect of the company and provisional liquidators were appointed in 2014.
In dismissing the application‚ the court said the business rescue proceedings were not intended to restore the liquidated company to solvency but rather to preclude the liquidators from discharging their statutory functions.
“Simply put‚ business rescue has been utilised by being diverted from its true course so as to serve extortion or oppression; or to exert pressure so as to achieve an improper end‚” said Judge Gamble. – TMG Digital