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Thursday Aug 02, 2012

Controversial Quoin Rock property back on the market

The Quoin Rock Wine Estate, which was at the centre of allegations relating to Auction Alliance earlier this year, is up for sale once again.

This is to be the second attempt by the SA Revenue Service (Sars) and liquidators to sell the 194ha property.

It was sold at auction on December 10 to billionaire businesswoman Wendy Appelbaum, whose winning bid was R55 million.

Appelbaum later disputed the legality of the sale.

She said she believed she had been the only genuine bidder at the auction and that she had in effect bid against herself. The Stellenbosch property estimated to be worth

is between R60m and R80m and is to be sold by tender later this month.

Submissions from potential buyers have been invited in a newspaper advertisement by the court-appointed joint liquidators, Cloete Murray, Normal Klein and Elizabeth Margaret Edwards

The closing date for submissions by potential buyers is August 15.

Viewing of the property is to be by appointment only, the advertisement says.

The Quoin Rock Wine Estate was attached from businessman Dave King by Sars in July last year.

It is to be sold in part settlement of his R2.7 billion tax debt.

Sars has been embroiled in court battles with King for 10 years.

According to a North Gauteng High Court judgment, King's company, Ben Nevis, owed Sars R1.4bn in 2002, but penalties and interest have swelled this figure to R2.7bn.

Sars spokesman Adrian Lackay said the Quoin Rock Wine Estate had been attached as part of the revenue office's efforts to recover R47m owed in VAT by the farm.

At the weekend, another property owned by King, the Quoin Rock Vineyards at Cape Agulhas, was sold for R18m, Lackay said.

He said the sale of the wine estate would be handled like a tender process.

"We will accept offers," Lackay said.

"By the end of August, all tender submissions will have been evaluated and a successful bidder will be appointed."

King owes R913m in tax, of which he has paid Sars only R4.4m.

After the auction, Appelbaum filed a complaint with the National Consumer Commission.

The consumer body ruled in April that Auction Alliance had been guilty of contravening the National Credit Act by conducting a "mock auction" in which it used a ghost bidder to drive up the price.

This ruling was taken on appeal by Auction Alliance and was overturned by the National Consumer Tribunal last month.

The Quoin Rock Wine Estate sale had led to allegations that Auction Alliance used vendor or ghost bidders to drive up the bids.

There were also allegations that the auction house made payments to senior bank employees and liquidators with the understanding that they would push business in Auction Alliance's direction.

Auction Alliance founder, Rael Levitt, stepped down as the company's chief executive during the controversy. The company has closed.

Cape Times

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