Alleged pyramid scheme operators appear in Court

SAPA – Three men who allegedly started a pyramid investment scheme, and kept investments totalling nearly R1million for themselves, appeared in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court yesterday. Quintan James Pick, 47, Andre Christoffel Magerman, 45, and Jacobus Swartz, 50, were not asked to plead when they appeared before magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg. They are charged with multiple counts of fraud, nine contraventions of the Bank Act, and nine of the Financial, Advisory and Intermediary Services Act. Their appearance yesterday was their 18th since they first appeared in September 2011. Representations made by defence attorney Keith Gess to the Western Cape Directorate for Public Prosecutions for the withdrawal of the charges were refues. At yesterday’s proceedings he said he would now approach the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in Pretoria. The men were warned to appear in court again on October 17 to hear the NPA’s decision. According to the charge sheet, they allegedly devised an investment scheme in September 2004, and solicited investments from the public in the name of Training and Conference Solutions SA, with premises in Bellville. Prosecutor Juan Agulhas alleges the venture was essentially an illegal pyramid scheme, in which 10 percent montly interest was offered to unsuspecting victims. Pyramid schemes involve excessive interest on investments. Later investments are used to pay the interest due on earlier investments. The three allegedly indicated to victims that their money would be invested on the stock exchange, but they failed to make such investments and kept the money for themselves. Agulhas alleges the money was instead paid into a bank account opened by Swartz. According to the charge sheet, the inflow of new deposits decreased in 2008, causing the scheme to collapse. The three allegedly made “desperate attempts” to stave off demands for interest and capital by promising payment on later dates, and by issuing post-dated cheques which were dishonoured. After the scheme collapsed, there was allegedly no money with which to repay the victims. According to the charge sheet, the three fraudulently obtained R965,000 from victims, who had provided information to the State.