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Friday Aug 03, 2012

No auction for controversial property as liquidators put it out to tender

Quoin Rock Wine Estate is up for sale again after an abortive attempt last December when it became the centre of a furore over embattled auctioneer Auction Alliance's business methods.

The South African Revenue Service (Sars) and liquidators are now set to try to sell the property again, after the buyer at the time, billionaire businesswoman Wendy Appelbaum, disputed the first sale because of what she believed were unethical sales tactics on the part of Auction Alliance.

The 194-hectare Stellenbosch property was said to be worth between R60 million and R80m and was being sold to help cover current owner Dave King's R2.7 billion tax debt.

This time however, instead of putting the property back on auction, Sars and the estate's liquidators are putting the sale out to tender.

A newspaper advertisement announcing the tender process, placed by court-appointed liquidators Cloete Murray, Normal Klein and Elizabeth Margaret Edwards, says the closing date for submission of tenders is August 15 and viewing of the property is by appointment only.

King is said to personally owe Sars R913m in tax, of which he had only paid R4.4m. His company, Ben Nevis, however owes Sars R2.7bn, a figure which grew from an original debt of R1.4bn in 2002 through penalties and interest. The farm also owed the taxman R47m in VAT.

Appelbaum's dispute over the December 10 auction salewasafter she allegedly discovered she was the only genuine bidder at the auction and that she had been bidding against an alleged stooge set up by Auction Alliance. She filed a complaint with the National Consumer Commission who, after first finding the auctioneer guilty of using a ghost bidder, had to overturn it on appeal from Auction Alliance due to technical factors.

But for Auction Alliance, the overturning of the finding has come too late, with the company's Cape Town offices closed and founder Rael Levitt, pictured, resigning as chief executive. Further allegations against the auctioneer have surfaced, that it had paid senior bank employees and liquidators to pass new business to them as preferred auctioneer.

Cape Argus

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