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Tuesday Apr 03, 2012

KZN wine estate liquidated

The defunct Stables Wine Estate in the Midlands owned by Ralph, and Judy van Niekerk, was wound up in the Durban High Court yesterday.

Durban High Court Judge Dhaya Pillay granted an order to finally wind up the company after an application was brought by Firstrand Bank Limited.

The couple were not represented in court yesterday and did not oppose the application.

The wine estate closed last year and the couple have since moved to Cape Town.

In its court papers, FirstRand's commercial recoveries manager, Shashika Ramtahal, said the estate, located on a property in Nottingham Road, owed the bank about R1.3 million plus interest for loans.

She said Firstrand did not know of the Van Niekerks' whereabouts and it was believed that the estate also owed money to other creditors.

"I assume that such creditors will no doubt seek to take legal action against the respondent.

"It would be to the benefit of the general body of creditors if the respondent is wound up in order to ensure an equitable distribution of its assets."

The couple are also embroiled in another legal battle with the provincial Economic Development Department, which is suing them for R3.4m in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

Economic Development Department head Carol Coetzee said in court papers that Gijima, the department's support programme, had granted the estate funding because the wine venture had been described by the couple as "economically advantageous".

According to the agreement, the estate was to use the Gijima money to make itself more competitive and sustainable by increasing its vines and expanding its existing wine-producing capacity.

Coetzee said the estate had failed to provide Gijima with documents to show how the funds had been used and had failed to keep proper accounting records.

The department later filed another high court application, seeking an order authorising the sheriff to take possession of the estate's movable property and assets, and to hold them as security for the R3.4m debt.

In reply to the application for seizure of their assets, Ralph van Niekerk said in an affidavit that the wine estate was owed money by the department.

He said the Stables had only received R2.2m of the R3.4m promised in funding, leaving R1.2m outstanding.

Those applications were still pending in court.

The Van Niekerks could not be reached for comment yesterday and did not respond to questions e-mailed to them.

The Mercury


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