Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Billy Rautenbach had ‘scheme to evade customs’

Billy Rautenbach, former Gaborone-based Hyundai Motor Distributors and Wheels of Africa owner, is being accused of trying to evade customs payments.

Advocates for the South African Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU), pressing the Johannesburg High Court for a final restraint order to seize property worth R60 million from Hyundai distributor and fugitive businessman Billy Rautenbach, pointed on Tuesday to allegations that he made use of an underlying scheme to evade customs payments.

Statements from a former employee who Rautenbach instructed to invoice customs deductions in excess of what was legally allowed by customs regulations were cited.

Judge Jonathan Heher was also told it was clear there had been a “fairly frenetic case of pass-the-parcel among the top management” of Rautenbach’s company.

Rautenbach’s legal team is arguing that the present allegations are inadmissible because they are “totally unrecognisable from the founding papers”. They have applied to have certain of the allegations struck out of the papers, and the day’s argument centered on this technicality.

Assets including jet and helicopter seized

Rautenbach’s assets were seized by the AFU in September last year under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act. They included a jet, a helicopter, a house and six flats in Sandton, a Cape wine farm and a farm in KwaZulu-Natal.
The High Court ruled last month that a provisional order allowing the unit to keep the property would stand. Rautenbach opposed the order on the grounds that it was issued in his absence.

If the unit secures a final restraint order, it will apply for a confiscation order. If this is granted Rautenbach’s property will be forfeited to the State.
Meanwhile, the Investigative Directorate for Serious Economic Offences is preparing to extradite Rautenbach from Zimbabwe to face charges involving more than R100 million. He has been there since the AFU raided his offices and home in South Africa.

Bribery, fraud charges

The charges Rautenbach faces relate to his Wheels of Africa Group and include bribery of customs officials, fraudulently reducing the tax liability of Wheels of Africa’s subsidiaries and fraudulently selling Hyundai vehicles worth R8 million from the Hyundai in Korea.

Wheels of Africa was liquidated in December 1999.

Rautenbach is also alleged to have bribed two Trade and Industry officials to stop an investigation into Volvo’s relationship with Wheels of Africa.
An affidavit from one of Rautenbach’s former business partners earlier said he instructed.


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