News / South Africa

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
19 Mar 2018
8:00 am

A defiant father, R1.3bn in missing investor funds and a bitcoin ‘hacker’

Ilse de Lange

The high court is dealing with allegations that a farm owner ran a pyramid scheme and is now hiding abroad.

His son was not a crook and could not be blamed for “hackers” spiriting away R1.3 billion of his investors’ funds overnight, a desperate father has told the High Court in Pretoria.

Andre Theron, whose son, A’ri’El Willem Theron, ran an alleged pyramid-type online foreign-exchange trading scheme under the name Love and Let’s Live (LLL), last week unsuccessfully tried to convince the court not to provisionally liquidate his company, Ruby Success Inc, which owns a farm worth R57 million in Mpumalanga.

Theron Jr started his investment scheme in 2015, but apparently moved investors’ funds to Panama after the Financial Services Board issued a warning that he was not registered as a financial services provider and his bank accounts were frozen.

When investors demanded their money back, Theron Jr – who is now being sought by the police – told them all the bitcoin he had “in storage” to pay them back had been stolen by a hacker and there were no funds left.

He said he had left the country in a bid to “restart his life”, was “incredibly sorry” and hoped they could forgive him.

LLL was wound up last month and the company’s liquidators then applied for the liquidation of Ruby Success, alleging that R41 million of the money out of which Theron Jr had swindled investors – mostly pensioners – was used to buy the farm for his father.

Theron’s father told the court his son was a clever man, who used to have “more than double” the money off-shore to cover investments. He said the only way his son could pay investors after his bank account was closed was to buy bitcoin, which was why he transferred funds to Panama until a hacker took it all.

He denied that investors’ funds were used to buy the farm, or that he and his son were “crooks”.

He said his son, “whose part was over R700 million”, had also lost everything.

Theron Sr let slip where his son might be when he told the court his son was trading through a company in Ireland, which counsel for the liquidators said they were “delighted” to hear because the prosecuting authorities were close on his heels to arrest him.

Judge Elizabeth Kubushi gave Theron Sr until April 5 to give reasons why Ruby Success should not be finally liquidated.

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