A former Benoni businessperson, left to run the family business after her whole family was murdered, has won her court case against the businessperson who bought her business, but then devised a scheme to get out of paying her the full amount.
Sonia van der Merwe ran her family’s computer accessory business, Legion Lock & Cable, on her own for years after the gruesome murder of her parents, Frans and Gina van der Merwe, her brother Daryl and his wife Melissa in 2004.
But she finally decided to sell it to businessperson Jaco Fourie for R4.5 million in 2012. Fourie, who bought Van der Merwe’s business through a family trust, only paid the first instalment of R2 million to Van der Merwe.
Thereafter he refused to pay the balance of R2.5 million. Van der Merwe took the dispute on arbitration, was granted an award for the outstanding amount and obtained a court order for payment.
But Fourie’s trust still did not pay. In desperation, Van der Merwe, who has since moved to Australia, had the trust’s interest in Legion Lock & Cable attached. Then she discovered that Fourie, acting as buyer and seller, had “sold” all the business assets to his own company, Legion Computer, leaving the once thriving family business an empty shell.
He also sold the rights in the Legion name and goodwill to his own company for a mere R1 and, according to court papers, informed clients that the business’ name had changed to Legion Computer.
Van der Merwe took Fourie to court to hold him personally liable for the outstanding balance, claiming he had acted fraudulently and recklessly as the “puppet master” of the trust to sell Legion Lock’s assets to himself and avoid paying the trust’s debts to her, while continuing to operate the business through his new company.
Fourie raised numerous defences on technical bases against the claim, but Judge Nomsa Khumalo earlier this month ruled in Van der Merwe’s favour in the High Court in Pretoria.
The judge found that Fourie’s conduct had been deliberate and dishonest and that he had orchestrated the fraudulent and deceitful deals using his position as a trustee and was personally liable to pay Van der Merwe the R2.5 million owed to her by his family trust.