Businessman's 10-year fight with NPA to recover R10m worth of assets
A businessman from Queenswood has spent more than a decade fighting the National Prosecuting Authority(NPA) to try to recover his assets worth about R10 million following a restraining order for a crime he never committed.
Pierre de Villiers is now so fed up with the situation that he is on his way out of the country and plans to emigrate to Cyprus.
De Villiers said the past few years have been an absolute nightmare for him and his family.
It all started when his daughter-in-law Nicole Romy de Villiers stole about R1.4m from the law firm where she worked as a receptionist.
Some of the money was paid into De Villiers’s bank account, and he was thus implicated in the fraud.
A Johannesburg magistrate, however, took less than 10 seconds to withdraw the charges against De Villiers in 2009.
He had to spend two nights in jail and had to sell a property in Bantry Bay, Cape Town, to pay his R700 000 legal bill for a trial which never happened.
His daughter-in-law was convicted and ended up in jail.
While the charges were pending against him, the Asset Forfeiture Unit obtained a restraint order against him. In terms of the order, his assets - five properties, a fleet of luxury cars, jewellery, numerous companies and trusts and 16 bank accounts - were seized by the NPA as being proceeds of crime.
Although his name is now cleared, he is still fighting an ongoing battle to have the restraint order lifted.
He has now launched an application before the Johannesburg Regional Court, which initially made the order, to overturn the restraint order.
He feels that he and his family have been haunted and severely prejudiced by the NPA.
“As a last resort I decided to emigrate as any business dealings I have pursued in this country have been hampered by the order of restraint and all the bad publicity I have received in the past.”
The restraint order also meant that he was placed under curatorship, which made life even more difficult for him.
He has since received his tax clearance certificate of good standing for immigration.
De Villiers said he saw light in the tunnel in 2010, when State attorney Jeff Tagane sent his lawyer a letter stating that in view of the criminal charges which had been withdrawn, the forfeiture unit issued instructions to have the restraint order lifted.
“I have, however, been waiting for the past decade for Tagane's confirmation for the lifting of this order,” De Villiers said.
Some 11 months after all criminal charges were dropped, the State “forced” De Villiers to sign an acknowledgement of debt of R200 000 on behalf of himself and his son for gifts received from Nicole.
This appears to be the reason why the State does not want to lift the order against him.
In an affidavit signed in July this year in which he is asking that the restraint order be lifted, De Villiers made it clear that he signed this document under duress.
He also questioned how the acknowledgement of debt was calculated.
“I was told that it was calculated among the officials at the unit the R200 000 was a thumbsuck amount,” he said in his affidavit.
De Villiers lodged numerous complaints about the legality of this document, which now proved to be the boiling point of this contentious saga.
He said he had explored every avenue to have the restraint order lifted, which included holding numerous meetings with the office of the unit, the NPA and other parties, but to no avail.
He even approached the office of the public protector in desperation.
The matter is being investigated and De Villiers was told by the office of the public protector in February this year that the unit confirmed that it would attend to the lifting of the restraint order.
De Villiers said he was still waiting in vain, as nothing was happening.
The NPA, through its spokesperson last year, said De Villiers's failure to settle the R200 000 debt had forced the State to retain the restraint order on his properties.
NPA Gauteng spokesperson Phindi Louw, meanwhile, said they would oppose De Villiers's application.
“Since the matter is sub judice we cannot comment any further,” she told the Pretoria News.