Bidders spent a cumulative R39m on a run-down hotel and spa in the Cape Winelands on Thursday.
This was no ordinary auction‚ it was the final chapter of the Fidentia fraud case which rocked the country almost a decade ago. The property was owned by the now defunct company.
Thousands of widows and orphans lost more than R1bn in the financial scandal. It was masterminded by Fidentia boss J Arthur Brown who is now serving a 15-year prison sentence for fraud.
Several would-be buyers turned out to bid for the hotel‚ spa‚ conference centre and three villas which were to be sold as various lots at the luxury One & Only Hotel in Cape Town.
The property was touted as having “sweeping views of the Simonsberg mountains”. Brown claimed in 2008 that the resort was worth R350m. But one of the widows‚ Joyce Dayimani‚ told Business Day that she doubted if she would ever see a penny of her late husband’s pension.
Auctioneers ClareMart described the auction as a success. CEO Jonathan Smiedt said about 100 investors had shown interest in the property.
“I am very happy with the result‚” said Smiedt. “If you consider that the property went for a total of R39-million and you have got to add fees and VAT to that. We are probably looking at the R42-million mark.”
John Levin‚ one of the Fidentia co-curators‚ shared Smiedt’s sentiments. Levin is set to meet with the Financial Services Board to have the sale confirmed.
“I think the turnout has been wonderful‚” said Levin. “I am actually delighted that after 10 years we have closed down this curatorship and given people their money and brought this whole tragedy to an end.”
Levin said he was not surprised that the property was sold for far less than the price for which it was bought.
“Unfortunately Brown made a habit of overpaying. Maybe the curators had wished to recover the money but we have never thought we would get anywhere near those values. With time the estate has run down‚ so I think we are very fortunate to get these prices‚” said Levin.
Fidentia controlled the Living Hands Umbrella Trust responsible for making monthly payments to beneficiaries of the mineworkers’ pension fund. The trust is Fidentia’s biggest creditor‚ due 89.6% of the proceeds.
The trustees said the trust had about 400 different funds comprising 60‚000 beneficiaries from various Southern African countries.
Since their appointment in 2012‚ the trustees have traced and paid more than 26‚000 beneficiaries. They have paid out more than R31m to date.
“Upon payment to the trust of its allocation by the curators‚ the funds will be distributed to the beneficiaries‚” the trustees said. “It must be said that the distribution in the context of the number of beneficiaries and available funds is nominal indeed.”