Hawks probe Jozi estate agent bust by ex-wife
Unregistered rental agency shuts down after more than R1m in trust fund money vanishes
The Hawks are investigating the affairs of an unregistered Johannesburg estate agency that went bust after more than R1m in funds disappeared from trust accounts.
Craig Pape, the director at Campbell Baxter Properties (CBP) is said to have left for Thailand after his business shut down, but is believed to now be back in South Africa.
His ex-wife, Kaz Roberts, a fellow employee at CBP, said she approached a private investigation firm, IRS Forensic Investigations, to look into the disappearance of R1.2m. She said the agency was in charge of rental fees and deposits on more than 180 properties.
Roberts, who insists she was not in control of the company's financial assets, said she and a colleague started realising something was wrong. Book keeper Alta Fouché said she became suspicious when she was told the client trust money would be used for an external investment to earn interest.
“Then one day, the money was gone. We couldn’t speak to Craig (Pape) and when we confronted him, he told us we should all start looking for other jobs,” she told Times Select.
Times Select has not been able to get hold of Pape for comment.
Fouché said it was then that she, Roberts and another colleague approached the IRS to find out what they could do, and to try and help the tenants and landlords who had lost their money.
IRS investigators Glenda Paul and Carla Botes were appointed to investigate the alleged theft of the trust account money.
“Several red flags were identified and the investigators contacted the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) to bring them up to speed regarding their findings and the possibility of claims against the fidelity fund,” said Paul.
While the firm immediately opened a case against Pape with the SAPS – it would later be transferred to the Hawks’ serious economic crimes unit – Pape remained impossible to pin down for questioning by the private investigators.
Pape is believed to have left for Thailand in August 2018.
Roberts claims he tried to call her in October during an apparent suicide attempt at his hotel in Thailand.
According to a medical report from the Koh Samui Hospital, seen by Times Select, Pape was discovered slurring in his hotel bed with numerous medicine bottles “disrupted” (sic) on the floor.
While he was rushed to hospital and rescued from the suspected overdose, the report states that he tried to leap from one of the hospital’s balconies.
After four days, he was sent to an immigration centre, set to be deported to SA.
According to Roberts, her ex-husband was kept there for about seven weeks, with the local SA embassy becoming involved to have him returned to his home country.
Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya confirmed that the embassy in Thailand had rendered services to Pape. “We are aware of the matter. But we will not comment on the matter,” he said in a brief response to queries from Times Select.
Paul said: “Information received is that he is now back in SA and has counter-charged those making allegations against him by making a complaint at the EAAB."
The Hawks confirmed an investigation into Campbell Baxter Properties was under way. Captain Ndivhuwo Mulamu said her office had received the fraud docket for further investigation in November 2018.
“We cannot comment further regarding the content of the statements obtained or evidence gathered against the alleged suspect. However, the investigation process has been finalised and the docket is handed to the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority],” she said.
Meanwhile, Paul said the case laid bare the risks of associating with estate agents who have not registered with the EAAB.
“The EAAB have made it simple for the public to verify the bona fides of anyone purporting to operate in the real estate space. The public need to make a concerted effort to go on to the EAAB website and to check the status of an estate agent prior to formally engaging them”, she said.
EAAB spokesperson Bongani Mlangeni confirmed the board had investigated two complaints against CBP, although these were procedural issues and not about the misappropriation of funds. He said the company had not been registered with the EAAB since 2011, and was last issued with a Fidelity Fund Certificate that year.
Attempts to contact Pape on four different phone numbers, as well as written queries sent to three of his registered e-mails, were unsuccessful.