Long arm of the law reaches for Langebaan ‘lawyer’ who allegedly duped clients

Long arm of the law reaches for Langebaan ‘lawyer’ who allegedly duped clients

Long arm of the law reaches for Langebaan ‘lawyer’ who allegedly duped clients

A plumbing company manager who went on to head a law firm has been accused of misrepresenting himself as a legal practitioner in South Africa and the UK, with claims that he duped clients and wore a religious cassock instead of a legal robe.

Police have confirmed they are investigating the matter.

This week, Daily Maverick repeatedly tried to get hold of Jacobus Frederik Enslin, also known as Fred Enslin, of the firm Enslin and Olivier based in the Western Cape town of Langebaan, so he could comment on accusations. Emails bounced back and messages and calls to numbers linked to the firm did not go through or were not replied to. In the absence of a response from Enslin, claims about him are still under investigation and yet to be tested in court.

Liquidation applications

On Monday 9 May, a notice of motion by a mining machinery company to apply for Enslin and Olivier Incorporated to be finally or provisionally liquidated was filed in the Western Cape High Court.

 

In a founding court affidavit in this matter, one of the grounds the application was being brought was because Enslin, “acting under the name and style of [Enslin and Olivier Incorporated], is conducting unlawful practices to the prejudice of the South African public”.

Last month in the Gauteng High Court, the mining machinery company pressed ahead with a similar liquidation application relating to another of Enslin’s companies, JF Enslin Legal Services (PTY) Ltd, with an address in Tshwane.

Daily Maverick understands this latter motion was not opposed.

Virtual proceedings, ‘religious attire’ and an award

An affidavit in this matter said that in June 2021 Enslin “orchestrated a virtual hearing that lasted for nine days”, during which he was the only person visible on screen to a client.

It said this client photographed Enslin “in his court attire and robe”, but an attorney later pointed out this garment was not of a type normally worn by legal practitioners and appeared to be a religious item purchased online.

Enslin and Olivier’s website says: “Enslin and Olivier Incorporated was formed in March 2021 after the founding directors, Dr JF Enslin and Ms Stephanie Olivier, both professional and qualified entrepreneurs, combined their expertise and skills…

“Dr Enslin brings 20 years commercial law, corporate law and business law experience… Most of Dr Enslin’s experience was gained by working aboard and his duties include preparing documents, assessing partnerships, and negotiating deals.” [sic]

Last year Enslin represented South Africa when he featured as “arbitration lawyer of the year” in Lawyer Monthly’s Legal Awards. Lawyer Monthly says on its website it is a news site and a monthly legal publication.

DM 168 inquired whether Enslin or the firm were registered with South Africa’s Legal Practice Council.

Questions over qualifications and registration

Council’s spokesperson Kabelo Letebele replied: “According to our records, there is neither a legal practitioner listed under the name Jacobus Frederik Enslin… nor a firm bearing the name Enslin and Olivier, registered with the Legal Practice Council.”

Elzani Coetzer, an attorney aware of matters relating to Enslin, explained that legal practitioners “had to be registered with the Legal Practice Council … to offer legal services to clients”.

A copy of Enslin’s resume says he obtained a master’s degree in law from Middlesex University in the UK. The resume also says he has qualifications from the University of Pretoria, the University of the Free State and the University of South Africa.

However, these universities do not seem to have records of Enslin.

Chad Thomas, financial and organised crime investigator at IRS Forensic Investigations, said an attorney representing several complainants who paid Enslin legal fees had appointed IRS to look into the matter.

The complainants, Thomas said, were “led to believe that Enslin was a duly registered and ‘very experienced’ legal practitioner”.

However, he said an IRS investigation showed “Enslin was not a registered legal practitioner” and his qualifications were allegedly fabricated.

“What was of concern is that Enslin had used some of these allegedly fabricated qualifications to gain admission to several self-governing legal-type associations,” Thomas said.

A criminal complaint was lodged in Langebaan.

R4.5-million and investigations

“This case was opened,” Thomas said, “on behalf of the multiple complainant groups that Enslin allegedly defrauded for an amount of approximately R4.5-million for so-called ‘legal services’.”

Thomas added that a Northern Cape company had had to retrench staff, allegedly because of “incorrect legal advice”.

Western Cape police spokesperson Captain Frederick van Wyk, without naming Enslin, has confirmed to Daily Maverick that a fraud case was registered with police in Langebaan and was under investigation.

Read in Daily Maverick: Cape investors left impoverished in Ponzi scheme investment scam

Northern Cape Hawks spokesperson Captain Tebogo Thebe said Enslin was also on their radar. “Our commercial crime unit is busy with an inquiry on the man; it’s not yet a docket at this stage,” Thebe said. “We are hopeful the inquiry will produce prima facie evidence which will lead to us converting it into a docket.”

A legal practitioner with knowledge of the case, who declined to be named for professional reasons, said the case showed how easily NGOs and public associations could be misled into issuing membership certificates. This, the practitioner said, was particularly dangerous as it “placed the general public at risk of losing their life savings”.

From ‘Kakaboy’ plumber to lawyer

An online company search showed that the company Enslin and Olivier, of which Enslin was an active director, was founded in February 2021.

The company’s address was in Langebaan, while the website also has contacts listed for Northern Cape, the UK and Kuwait.

A UK website lists “Dr Jacobus Frederik Enslin” as linked to the company Enslin Olivier International Business Lawyers LLP, which was apparently registered in that country in September 2021.

Other searches showed Enslin was previously the contact person and manager at a South African company named Kakaboy Plumbing and Electrical that offered nationwide services and was established in 2005.

Thomas pointed out that one of Enslin’s “law firms” was named “KKB Law Group”, which could be an abbreviation of Kakaboy. DM168

DIFFICULT TO PIN DOWN

Daily Maverick made repeated attempts to contact Fred Enslin so he could respond to claims made against him.

  • A message was left with a man who answered the phone at a security company linked to Enslin and who said he would pass the message on once Enslin wrapped up meetings. Enslin did not return the call.
  • Calls to the contact number for Enslin and Olivier’s Northern Cape office just got an automated voice message saying the subscriber was not available.
  • Calls to a contact number on Enslin’s resume went to voicemail. A voice message was not replied to, nor was an SMS nor a WhatsApp (moments after the WhatsApp was sent, the profile image of the recipient, a picture of a lion, disappeared). A second WhatsApp did not seem to go through.
  • Calls to the landline for Enslin and Olivier’s Langebaan office got a voice message saying the subscriber was not available.
  • A call to a cellphone number for Kakaboy Plumbing and Electrical, for which Enslin was listed as a contact, did not go through.
  • An email to Enslin and Olivier’s Langebaan office was not replied to.
  • An email to another address listed for Enslin and Olivier was not replied to.
  • An email to other offices bounced back with a message saying the account’s owner had suspended the account.
  • An online submission form on Enslin and Olivier’s website did not seem to work.
  • An email to an address on Enslin’s resume was not replied to.
  • An email to an address contained in court papers, apparently for Enslin, bounced back with a message saying the domain could not be found. DM168

SA banks caught up in financial shenanigans in Namibia

SA banks caught up in financial shenanigans in Namibia

SA banks caught up in financial shenanigans in Namibia

REPUTATIONAL risk has become something of a buzzword in business and particularly in banking and as previously reported, South African banks are actually the architects of their own reputational risk.

Investopedia, the world’s leading source of financial content on the internet, says reputational risk can arise from the actions of errant employees, leading to instances of egregious fraud or massive trading losses.

Giving an example from the US, Investopedia says: “Reputational risk exploded into full view in 2016 when the scandal involving the opening of millions of unauthorised accounts by retail bankers and encouraged or coerced by certain supervisors was exposed at Wells Fargo.”

In that instance top executives were forced out or fired. Regulators subjected the bank to fines and penalties, and a number of large customers reduced, suspended, or discontinued altogether their business with the bank.

Wells Fargo’s reputation was tarnished, and the company has had to rebuild its reputation and its brand.

When it comes to reputational risk it would appear that some South African banks have recently been caught up in financial shenanigans that don’t reflect too well on their reputations in the neighbouring Namibia.

In March this year the Namibian Competition Commission (NaCC) initiated two investigations into its banking sector on account of discriminatory practices.

The NaCC said that the first investigation related to the alleged historic fixing of interchange rates by commercial banks through the Payments Association of Banks (PAN).

Those being investigated include PAN itself, Nedbank Namibia, Standard Bank, FNB, Banco Atlantico Europa-Namibian branch, Bank BIC Namibia, Bank Windhoek, Letshego Bank Namibia, Nampost Savings Bank and Trustco Bank Namibia.

The second investigation is focused on the Bankers Association of Namibia, FNB, Bank Windhoek, Standard Bank and Nedbank for possible discriminatory conduct in the provision of fire insurance for home loans; unfair pricing of certain ancillary services; and discrimination in the provision of home loans to clients belonging to other banks vis-a-vis their own clients.

The news of these investigations came during the same week in March that one of Namibia’s leading newspapers, The Namibian, reported: “Nedbank Namibia has suspended its retail and business banking executive, Richard Meeks, for alleged improper conduct.”

The newspaper said that Meeks had been a senior member of the bank’s executive team and had acted as its managing director from March to July 2020.

Responding to queries from the Argus, Nedbank spokesperson Sarah Mautjana said the bank had taken note of the fact that the NaCC had initiated investigations in respect of several banks and related stakeholders in Namibia.

“We have always been guided by our ethics in treating our clients fairly, and as the banking sector we operate in one of the most regulated business sectors. This amplifies the inherent checks and balances governing the industry in their pursuit of business.”

She said Nedbank was ready to engage with the relevant industry bodies and the NaCC in good faith with the aim of resolving the matter.

“We remain guided by the principles of customer centricity that we as Nedbank subscribe to and hold in high regard,” Mautjana said.

“Nedbank can confirm that Richard Meeks remains suspended pending the completion of an internal process. Due to employee confidentiality, we are unable to share any more information.”

Standard Bank spokesperson Ross Linstrom forwarded the following statement from Standard Bank Namibia: “NaCC issued a notice to investigate alleged uncompetitive practices within the commercial banking sector in Namibia.

“Standard Bank Namibia would like to assure our clients and valued stakeholders that it conducts its business within the highest international governance standards and in compliance with all regulations governing the banking sector.

“Standard Bank Namibia, therefore, will welcome the outcome of any potential investigation and will extend its full co-operation to NaCC in order to accomplish its investigation.”

Independent analyst Corrie Kruger, himself a former banker, said banks also liked to portray themselves as very high moral standard institutions.

“However, because often they find themselves unable to say no to certain very large and lucrative transactions involving billions of rand and where there is easy money, they sometimes look the other way and suddenly the reputational risk is ignored.”

Questionable, sometimes outright dishonest conduct by handful of lawyers a worrying trend

Questionable, sometimes outright dishonest conduct by handful of lawyers a worrying trend

Questionable, sometimes outright dishonest conduct by handful of lawyers a worrying trend

Sadly, this kind of conduct by lawyers is just one of the factors contributing to perceptions about the lack of integrity within the legal profession. A quick look at recent judgments from our high courts suggests that far too many members of the legal profession are fundamentally dishonest and lack basic respect for the legal processes.

Writing about the most recent attempts by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and her lawyers to stall her impeachment, Daily Maverick columnist Professor Balthazar expressed concern about these “blatant and legally unprincipled attempts at the exploitation of legal gaps, which only serve to delegitimise the entire legal system”.

Balthazar further suggested that courts consider imposing punitive costs on such litigants in their personal capacity, as well as on “those lawyers who are using the thinnest veneer of legality to postpone the constitutional imperative, which in this case is to investigate the possible impeachment of the Public Protector”.

On this particular issue, I am entirely in agreement with the Daily Maverick columnist, but I worry that the unethical behaviour of some lawyers representing litigants who engage in Stalingrad tactics to protect themselves from accountability are merely symptoms of a much larger integrity crisis within the legal profession.

Looking only at judgments reported on by the Southern African Legal Information Institute (Saflii) in the past six months, I counted more than a dozen cases in which the Legal Practice Council (LPC) approached the court to have an attorney suspended or struck off the roll for their unlawful and dishonest behaviour.

In many of these cases, the implicated attorney refused to cooperate with the LPC investigation. In several instances, they invoked procedural arguments or complained about imaginary infringements of their rights, while not offering a defence on the merits of the charges levelled against them. In some instances where a defence was offered, the implicated attorney advanced blatantly false claims, ironically providing further evidence of their dishonesty. A few examples will illustrate my point.

In South African Legal Practice Council v Ntsie (8 March 2022), the Gauteng high court struck Mr Thabiso Ntsie from the roll of attorneys for, among others, misappropriating funds held in trust for his clients. In one instance a Ms Nzama complained that Mr Ntsie had refused to repay the R236,353 she had deposited into his trust fund for the purchase of a house, after the transaction fell through. The court noted that Mr Ntsie failed to cooperate with the investigation that followed and also failed to respond to the findings of the investigation.

In South African Legal Practice Council v Tshakafa (4 March 2022), the Gauteng high court struck Mr Shumani Tshakafa from the roll of attorneys for, among others, practicing without fidelity fund certificates, and for misappropriating funds of a client to the tune of R350,000. In short, the court found that Mr Tshakafa had received “Mr Twala’s funds on trust; misappropriated Mr Twala’s funds; delayed repayment to Mr Twala; utilised the funds of other trust creditors when he made payment to Mr Twala; and manipulated his accounting records to conceal the accurate state of affairs”. He also failed to cooperate during an inspection of his practice.

In Legal Practice Council v Lielies and Another (8 February 2022), the Free State high court suspended Mr Loyd Lelies from practicing as an attorney for practicing without a fidelity fund certificate and mismanaging his trust fund. The court noted that instead of dealing with the merits of the findings against him, Mr Lelies argued that his constitutional rights had been infringed, and relied on several irrelevant procedural arguments.

In what must sound familiar to anyone following the various high profile cases in which litigants use the so-called Stalingrad approach to prevent accountability, the high court complained that the various affidavits submitted to the court by Mr Lelies “are replete with accusations against the LPC, the Law Society before November 2018, and their functionaries which are really unfair and uncalled for. He even accused the independent auditor of being guilty of contempt of court. I am satisfied that the respondent has demonstrated a remarkable lack of insight concerning the professional and ethical standards expected of an attorney. Obstructionism, denials and evasions have no place in matters of this nature and it was expected of the respondent to put full facts before the court.”

But the most bizarre case from the last six months involving a dishonest legal practitioner must be that of Jelal v South African Legal Practice Council (19 January 2022), in which the KwaZulu-Natal high court rejected an application by Ms Shireen Jelal to be readmitted as an attorney after she was struck from the roll in November 2007. She was originally struck from the roll after pleading guilty to corruption, and sentenced to four years imprisonment wholly suspended for a period of five years on certain conditions. But this did not end her dishonest conduct. As the high court explains:

“On 30 November 2007 when the applicant’s name was struck off the roll, the court interdicted her from practising and or holding herself out as an attorney. In about a year from that date, she was already holding herself out as an attorney. She was assisting counsel as if she was an instructing attorney. She even demanded to be paid for the services she rendered which were services to be rendered by an instructing attorney. She dabbled in the practice of an attorney creating confusion for the authorities and for clients or members of the public.”

It is therefore not surprising that five years later Ms Jelal was again convicted of a criminal offence, this time for impersonating an attorney in contravention of s83(1) of the Attorneys Act. Her appeal to the Free State high court was dismissed in 2017, and on 17 May 2018 the Supreme Court of Appeal refused her application for special leave to appeal.

What must again sound familiar to anyone following the high-profile cases in which the Stalingrad defence is being used, the high court held that Ms Jelal “was found to have lied in circumstances where, if she was telling the truth, the conclusion must be that the magistrate, prosecutor and the investigating officer lied”.  In the judgment on sentence the trial magistrate had this to say:

“I have observed you throughout the proceedings. You branded everybody or every person who testified against you as a liar by denying some obvious facts that you in fact introduced yourself as an attorney and you knew that that is what you did, but be it as it may you held that you did not utter those words. That in itself shows that you don’t show any remorse for what you have done on that particular day, 9 January 2009.” 

Despite these damning findings, Ms Jelal applied to be readmitted as an attorney one year later. Shockingly, the LPC originally submitted only a letter to the court hearing the readmission application in which it stated that it had considered Ms Jelal’s application for re-admission and that it will not oppose the application for re-admission. It furnished no reasons for its stance and even after the court ordered it to furnish such reasons the court expressed its dissatisfaction and noted that the affidavit delivered on behalf of the LPC did not reveal a clear rational basis for the decision not to oppose the application.

Only a small number of legal practitioners are ever struck from the roll, and it would be wrong to conclude that the legal profession as a whole is tainted by dishonesty and incompetence. But it is worrying that in so many of the cases, the attorneys implicated in wrongdoing did not attempt to address the substance of the complaints against them, treating the legal process as completely divorced from any considerations of what is true or false or what is right or wrong.

A full bench of the Gauteng high court expressed similar concerns last week in the matter of Hlophe v Judicial Service Commission. Noting that, if acceded to, some of the procedural arguments advanced by Judge President Hlophe would have the effect of making it impossible for the JSC to ever make a finding against him, despite the fact that he has been found guilty of gross misconduct by a Judicial Conduct Tribunal, the court remarked:

“The JSC process is not a game of chess poised at checkmate stage. Such a perspective would constitute both an abuse of court process and a monumental waste of scarce judicial resources. Let us not lose sight of the fact that this aspect of the case before us is not an attempt by the applicant to advance a legitimate defence to the charge of gross misconduct against him.”

Sadly, as both the high-profile Stalingrad cases and the LPC cases illustrate, this is not an attitude shared by all lawyers. DM

SOUTHERN AFRICAN BANKS GUILTY OF DOUBLE STANDARDS IN DEALING WITH FRAUDSTERS, MONEY LAUNDERERS AND SCAMMERS

SOUTHERN AFRICAN BANKS GUILTY OF DOUBLE STANDARDS IN DEALING WITH FRAUDSTERS, MONEY LAUNDERERS AND SCAMMERS

SOUTHERN AFRICAN BANKS GUILTY OF DOUBLE STANDARDS IN DEALING WITH FRAUDSTERS, MONEY LAUNDERERS AND SCAMMERS

SOUTHERN AFRICAN BANKS GUILTY OF DOUBLE STANDARDS IN DEALING WITH FRAUDSTERS, MONEY LAUNDERERS AND SCAMMERS

 

In a recent article published by Bongani Hans an interesting aspect was put to the fore.

As was pointed out a few years ago by Johnny Steinberg regarding the complicity of Southern African banks when they allow transactions originating from money laundering, embezzlement and fraudsters and the like to occur without doing anything about them.

Hans’ article reads as follows:

 

 ‘Two of the Country’s major banks have demonstrated double standards by unbanking companies they purport to pose a reputational risk to their operations, as they have failed to act against themselves despite the Zondo State Capture Commission report linking them to serious acts of corruption.

 

Nedbank and Standard Bank’s reputations took a major blow when Justice Raymond Zondo mentioned them in his comprehensive report as alleged wrongdoers but there is no evidence that they have taken drastic steps against themselves or their officials.

 

The banks have also received much negative media coverage for their relationship with Gupta-linked Regiments Capital.

 

When pressed for comment on questions to do with the apparent double standards at play, Nedbank corporate communications head Annaleigh Vallie responded with:  “We have no further comment”.

 

Based on our initial review of the two Zondo Reports, no adverse findings have been made against Nedbank.  Nedbank will co-operate with any investigation undertaken as a result of recommendations in the Zondo Commission Report,” said Vallie.

 

Standard Bank’s Ross Linstrom also did not entertain the question of hypocrisy in his response, except to say the bank continues to co-operate fully with all competent authorities in respect of the work of the Judicial Commission on Inquiry into State Capture.

 

According to the Zondo report, the two financial institutions are associated with corruption linked to Regiments Capital and former Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) treasurer, Phetolo Ramosebudi, who between 2010 and 2013, issued invoices in the names of entities controlled by him or his brother, to Regiments Capital.  These amounted to more than R9.1 million.

 

Zondo also linked the banks’ questionable behaviour to South African Airways (SAA) and Transnet, which were among the reasons the commission was created in the first place, and included the investigation of the activities of the Gupta family.

 

Nedbank and Standard Bank have been directly linked to corruption activities and are due to further investigation, for having a questionable business relationship with regiments Capital, which involve ACSA and Transnet as their cash cows.

 

Yet, the banks have seen fit to unbank companies such as Sekunjalo Investment Holdings (SIH) based on unproven reputational risk due to trial by the media.

 

In trying to find justification to unbank Sekunjalo, the banks jointly arrived at the consensus that SIH and its related entities posed a significant reputational risk due to negative publicity.  The banks’ action is putting hundreds of jobs on the line and threatening the well-being and future of thousands of employees’ dependents.

 

In legal documents filed at the Equality Court, Sekunjalo and its related group companies, have raised concern about the banks’ internal risk assessment procedure, relying as they do, on “vitriolic and inaccurate media reports published by or at the instance of the complainants’ competitors in the media space” to discriminate against them.

 

Zondo found that Nedbank was entangled in a conflict of interest and secret deals when it was bidding for the transaction advisory services at SAA.

 

The commission also found that more than R35 million had been invoices by Regiments Capital to Nedbank for various interest swap deals between Nedbank Capital and ACSA, and then Nedbank recovered the money from ACSA over the life of the interest swap transaction.

 

The report highlighted that Nedbank’s arrangement with Regiments Capital was an act contrary to its principal’s interests, “by increasing the margin payable by ACSA to Nedbank and, thus, increasing its 50% share of this margin.” 

 

It was found that Nedbank representatives Mario Visnenza and Moss Brickman were among people who should be investigated for the alleged contravening of section 6(b)(ii) of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004.  According to the report, those found to have violated the Act might be guilty of dishonesty, unauthorised actions, bias as well as the abuse of a position of authority.

 

The report stated that the matter requires further investigation by the appropriate authorities, as the commission hearings ran out of time before listening to Nedbank’s version.

 

Zondo also found that more than R22 million was invoiced by Regiments Capital to Standard Bank in relation to a R1,75 billion interest swap between Standard Bank and ACSA, and then recovered by Standard Bank from ACSA, over the life of the interest swap transaction.  

 

Financial investigations consultant, Emarand van Zyl, who has been investigating and raising concerns about banks’ misconduct, said if the government could not take action against the banks, no one would, because they do not have an appetite to act against themselves. 

 

“The government is protecting the banks.  Where is consumer protection in South Africa?  It has collapsed.  The government must step in, the banking ombudsman must step in, but they are all sitting there doing nothing,” he said.

 

Political analyst and legal expert, Mpumelelo Zikalala, said banks were biased towards themselves and certain companies that had been found wanting.  He said the Banking Association of South Africa (Basa) should be proactive by disassociating itself from banks that have been implicated in unscrupulous deals.

 

“What is their stance when it comes to protecting their reputation if one of their members (in Basa) is implicated in wrong conduct?  Yes, it may be that at this stage it is still allegations (against the banks), but they also act on the basis of allegations (against their clients),” he said.’

Bogus advocate gets his day in court

Bogus advocate gets his day in court

Bogus advocate gets his day in court

Bogus advocate gets his day in court

The Provincial Commissioner of the Western Cape, Lieutenant General Thembisile Patekile was pleased with the harsh sentence which was meted against the 50-year-old Dale Ronald Harmse in the Oudtshoorn Regional Court on Wednesday, 30 March 2022 following his conviction for fraud, money laundering and contravention of Section 33(2) of the Legal Practice Act 28/2014 by pretending to be an practicing and registered Advocate whilst he was not.

The complainant laid a complaint against the accused during April 2020 after he approached the accused who was referred to him as a very good advocate who can assist him in legal matters. Initial investigation suggests that they met in Oudtshoorn where the bogus advocate convinced him to transfer an amount of R500 000.00 from his business account into a so-called trust account which was later found to be that of the accused. The month before the case was registered, March 2020, the relationship between the complainant and the accused became sour as the complainant was unable to pay the salaries of his employees. It was then discovered that the accused disappeared with the money of the complainant. Background checks by the investigation officer also confirmed that the accused is not a registered legal practitioner. https://www.saps.gov.za/newsroom/msspeechdetail.php?nid=39065