Members of the Hawks investigated a High Street business yesterday morning, June 6, following a fraud complaint lodged by the Vryheid labour department, Vryheid Herald reports.
The presence of the Hawks was greeted with confusion and anxiety by the crowds of elderly people who were hoping to benefit from the ‘financial service’ offered by Tovasize.
Members of the Hawks were treating the business premises as a crime scene while gathering evidence, but did not prevent the business from carrying on with its operation.
An officer on the scene explained to the Vryheid Herald that the company was asking a R1 500 application fee in return for claiming money from the labour department on their behalf.
“A complaint was received from the labour department in Vryheid. They [the business] say to the people that they are claiming money from the department of labour. We will be contacting all the people who paid money over to find out if they received what was promised to them, but the department of labour says that this is fraud,” he said.
Asked to explain what the company does, the officer continued: “Each person pays R1 500 for their application. I presume it is just for the processing of the application. I don’t think they process your application unless they receive the R1 500, but I am not too sure about that. We will find out about that from them.”
The investigation is ongoing, and no arrests have been made.
Sean Westcott identified himself as the owner of the business and indicated that Tovasize had been operating as Donafin until two days ago.
“These people don’t understand. They just need help. Be careful of what you are doing,” he said, referring to the elderly people who are his clients. “They are old ladies that are just here for assistance. We are offering a service to trace money, if they have unclaimed money.
“If we come to a stage where there is no money, we give them their money back. We don’t take their money. We don’t do anything with their money. Their money is safe. Nowhere in the law says that I am not allowed to that. “
The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) warns that Donafin and Westcott are “conducting an unregistered business and providing advisory and intermediary services without the necessary authorisation”.
An article published on their website warns: “The Financial Sector Conduct Authority ([SCA] would like to warn the public to act with caution when dealing with an entity called Donafin (Pty) Ltd (‘Donafin’) and its representatives Sean Westcott (‘Mr Westcott’) and Leon Lincoln (‘Mr Lincoln’). Donafin, Mr Lincoln and Mr Westcott are not authorised in terms of the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act, 2002 (“FAIS Act”) to render any financial advice and intermediary services.
“Donafin is rendering financial services to the public, including charging a fee for the claiming of pension fund benefits, alleging that these funds were invested overseas and that they have been fighting to have them returned to the members of the public. From the information gathered by the FSCA, it appears that Donafin has been operating in KwaZulu-Natal as well as in the Gauteng Province. It is the FSCA’s view that the abovementioned individuals are conducting an unregistered business and providing advisory and intermediary services without the necessary authorisation. This means that members of the public are not protected.
“The FSCA again reminds consumers who wish to conduct financial services with an institution or person to check beforehand with the FSCA on either the toll free number (0800 110 443) or on the website www.fsca.co.za as to whether or not such institution or person is authorised to render financial service.”
One of the pensioners making use of the ‘service’ offered by Tovasize said she had heard about the company from a friend of hers, who was a nurse.
She said: “They said you have to pay R1 500 for a lawyer that will fix everything and get you your money over six months. A nurse told me to come here. That nurse has built her house and bought everything with that money. I used to work in Public Works at admin, and never received the money that I was supposed to get. I was even injured on duty when lightning hit the switchboard, but didn’t get even a cent. I went up and down to the doctor all by myself.”
This is a developing story and more information will be published as it becomes available.