The masterminds in an alleged multi-million rand Ponzi scheme that targeted pensioners and left scores of investors penniless, have been denied bail in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court.
Brandon Naicker, aka Muruvan Egambaram, and his co-accused, Abraham “Jason” Pillay appeared in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court on Thursday for a bail ruling.
They have been charged for fleecing one investor out of R2 million. However, the court had heard that investigators are probing more than 80 other cases against them, that according to some estimates, could reach up to R180 million.
The pair have been charged with eight counts, including theft and fraud.
Magistrate W Robinson, in handing down her ruling, said Naicker and Pillay in their plea for bail through affidavits - and not verbal testimony - had failed to convince the court that releasing them would be in the interest of justice.
The pair had, at earlier court proceedings, outlined their reasons for bail, including the fact that they were sole breadwinners, they had no intention of evading a trial or tampering with evidence or interfering with witnesses.
While noting these submissions, Magistrate Robinson highlighted the testimony of Detective Constable Simphiwe Maphumulo of the Hillcrest police who had testified on some of the discrepancies in the affidavits of Naicker and Pillay.
She noted that during the bail hearing, the website of Branson Capital was taken down which led the court to speculate that with a “click of a button” it could easily be reinstated.
She also highlighted the fact that Naicker had not declared all the property that was registered in his name, which raised the question of, “what else did he not disclose to the court?”.
She said that being a sole breadwinner did not tip the scales in the favour of an applicant.
Her ruling was met with a collective sigh of relief from a packed public gallery of investors who have followed every twist and turn of the bail hearing.
They thanked the investigating officer and Senior State Prosecutor advocate Joel Kisten at the conclusion of the hearing.
IOL exposed the scheme run by Naicker and Pillay.
Naicker, who is the alleged mastermind, claims on his social media to be a “serial entrepreneur” who has launched several successful businesses in the financial sector, among them, a registered Financial Services Provider insurance brokerage firm called Infinitii.
Naicker, whose legal first names are Muruvan Egambaram, says that starting Infinitii, in turn led him to acquire a Sanlam franchise brokerage (Nalai BlueStar), which was one of only 190 in the country.
He was also a shareholder in another brokerage firm called Branson Capital which he ran with Pillay, who on his LinkedIn Profile, called himself the owner of Branson Capital.
While they are on trial for just one case, detectives from the Hawks are probing the multi-layered Ponzi scheme scandal estimated at R180 million that primarily targeted pensioners and retirees.
These included retired teachers, police officers and businesspeople, robbing them of their hard-earned life savings.
Investors were promised up to 3% dividends per month on their initial investment with Branson Capital which they were assured was underwritten by Infinitii which had a legitimate FSP registration.
For example, Branson Capital promised that if an investor invested R900,000 with them, they would receive R27,000 a month in returns.
Advocate Kisten told the court that the money paid into the Branson Capital account by investors was used to pay earlier investors, for gambling tokens, properties, forex, and to support the lifestyle of Naicker.