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Monday Apr 16, 2012

Joburg property hijacking case goes on

A Joburg attorney charged alongside the alleged ringleader of an inner-city building hijacking syndicate has failed in his attempt to get his case thrown out of court.

Angus Mansions.

Conveyance attorney Kenneth Ntila objected to charges brought against him at the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court at the start of his trial this week alongside co-accused Sinethemba Mkhumbuzi. They are on trial for the alleged fraudulent sale of high-rise inner-city property Angus Mansions for R3.5 million to William Mailula.

Angus Mansions is a sectional title property owned by PhilaniMa Afrika - a subsidised scheme set up by the Gauteng provincial government to assist underprivileged people to collectively acquire the building for their own occupation.

According to the charge sheet, Mkhumbuzi "falsely and with intent to defraud" pretended to sell Angus Mansions to Mailula or the Trust for Urban Housing Finance.

The trust, which assists emerging entrepreneurs with money to buy buildings, financed the purchase of Angus Mansions by Mailula.

The State claimed that Mkhumbuzi and Ntila induced Mailula under false pretences to hand over the amount of almost R3.5m to effect transfer and registration.

Mkhumbuzi and Ntila are also facing an alternative count of theft over the R3.5m.

This week, however, Ntila told the court that the charge that he was not entitled to sell the property had no basis.

"The claims of fraud have no basis... because the complainant (Mailula) got the property in question," Ntila told magistrate Vincent Ratshibvumo. "Where does the claim that we were not entitled to sell this property come from if we have documentary proof ?" Ntila also claimed that the State had amended the charge sheet, without the authorisation of the court, to add in that the housing finance trust was also a complainant in the matter.

He objected to the prosecution's amendments to the initial charge sheet, arguing that because this was not authorised by the court it would prejudice him.

But Ratshibvumo dismissed Ntila's objections, saying he would agree to a postponement only, on the basis that Ntila had not prepared his defence in accordance with the new charge sheet.

"I would be willing to give you more time to prepare yourself and your defence in accordance with the amended charge sheet," he told Ntila.

"Your application for the charges against you to be dismissed is overruled."

The prosecution said it had enough evidence that would be led during the trial to prove the charges against Ntila and Mkhumbuzi that they had unlawfully sold and transferred Angus Mansions to Mailula.

Mkhumbuzi was arrested at his R2.8m Bassonia home in 2009, by a special SAPS provincial task team investigating building hijacking. He has been held at Joburg prison since then with occasional court appearances.

He has been implicated in the hijacking of more than 10 buildings in the inner city, including another high-rise property - Dolphin Square in Joubert Park.

According to police investigating the case, he allegedly used internet loopholes in the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (now the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission) to falsify company records, declaring him director with authority to sell buildings.

In 2009, Philani-ma Afrika lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein seeking to have the purported sale of Angus Mansions set aside.

The application was brought before the SCA following a high court order sought by Mailula and the housing finance trust - as the owners - to evict 67 occupants of the property.

The SCA then found that a deed of sale for Angus Mansions was signed by Mailula as a buyer, and Mkhumbuzi purportedly on behalf of the seller. The court heard that Mkhumbuzi had signed the deed "by virtue of a power of attorney", which was found to be invalid because the remaining directors of Philani-ma Afrika could not have passed a resolution authorising the sale.

The court also heard that the estate agent who had handled the sale did not make an affidavit nor did the conveyancing attorney - Ntila - who was deemed a party to the sale.

The SCA declared that Angus Mansions was owned by PhilaniMa Afrika and ordered the City of Joburg to cancel the deed of transfer of the property to Mailula. The SCA also set aside the high court order that ordered the eviction of the 67 Angus Mansions occupants and owners.

Mailula has turned State witness, claiming he was not aware the building had been hijacked. The trial was postponed to June 7.

Saturday Star

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