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Monday Nov 27, 2017

Phoenix property scammers in dock for 'theft'of millions

More than a dozen desperate buyers who thought they had hit the cheap home jackpot have fallen for a property scam and lost more than R160 000 each.

In three separate matters before the Durban Commercial Crimes Court, five suspects, including Clare Estate attorney Ajay Deba, are accused of fraud and theft for alleged involvement in the illegal sales of numerous properties in Phoenix. In the scams, which began in 2014, houses were put up for sale without the knowledge of the owner.

Narisha Ramsunder is accused of colluding with Christine Boalch and Stephanie Pillay to scam people who wanted to buy property in Westham, Phoenix last year. The trio disappeared and changed telephone numbers after the victims paid money into a bank account registered in the name of an allegedly non-existent law firm, Sheik and Associates.

Pietermaritzburg man Bheki Shelembe, who works in Durban, was one of the victims. He is among at least three people who paid R160000 for a home in a development in Phoenix which is registered in the name of Jayseelan Govender, who is based in Gauteng. It is believed Govender's details, including his ID number, were used on the sale documents without his consent.

When Independent Media visited the house this week, the neighbours said there were frequent visits by people who looked like prospective buyers. Others who were allegedly scammed were also seen arguing outside the gate last year after realising that Ramsunder and her co-accused had disappeared with their money. One of the victims occupied the house earlier this year but moved out after a few weeks. Ramsunder and her co-accused are out on bail and their matter is scheduled for trial in March.

In the second matter, Ramsunder is the sole accused and it's alleged she got access to four Phoenix houses by securing tenancy. Then she masqueraded as the owner when victims visited the properties she was selling. She offered to sell the three-bedroom homes for between R160 000 and R190 000.

In a matter implicating Deba and Kathija Shahabally, they were accused of stealing more than R2.7 million from 15 people. At least three houses were simultaneously sold to multiple buyers. All the payments were deposited in the bank account registered to Deba's legal firm.

Phoenix-based attorney Rajesh Harilall confirmed that in 2015 he recovered more than R2m for his clients from Deba's firm after they each paid at least R200000 for houses that were not transferred into their names.

Harilall's clients, including Higeshen Latchimanah and Fatima Sheik, told the court Deba evaded their calls after their money was transferred into his account.

They later discovered the properties they had "bought" were being sold to other people after they had made payments.

The Sunday Independent

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