Surapure investors ‘could lose it all’

Image courtesy stock.xchnge (PocketAces)

Image courtesy stock.xchnge (PocketAces)

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) believes micro-retailer SuraPure Drinks is operating illegally as a pyramid scheme, potentially imperiling the profits that members have earned.

If the scheme is found to be illegal, all the money could be forfeit to the state and no money given back to investors. Surapure has about R61m in its bank account.

This was announced at a meeting of SuraPure creditors in Germiston on Friday, where they voted to allow the company’s business rescue practitioners to continue negotiations with the SA Reserve Bank (SARB) and NPA.

About 2 000 members were there, representing 20% to 30% of the value of the money invested in the company. The SARB has frozen SuraPure’s bank account and seized its books, appointing professional services firm EY to undertake a forensic audit of the company.

Meanwhile, according to those involved in the business rescue proceedings, the NPA said SuraPure contravened the Banks Act and the Consumer Protection Act. Unfortunately, business rescue practitioners Harry Kaplan and Jerifanos Mashamba have been unable to undertake a proper investigation of SuraPure, since its accounts are under control of the SARB.

Kaplan and Mashamba are arguing that money invested by members initially in the company is not the proceeds of crime and should be returned to these members. But until they can access SuraPure’s books, they cannot ascertain the financial standing of the company and draw up a business rescue plan.

The SARB said it would take at least 60 days for the forensic audit to be completed before Kaplan and Mashamba would be granted access to SuraPure’s accounts.

Business rescue is aimed at rehabilitating a company in financial distress. The process provides a plan to help the company stay solvent and in business.

SuraPure claimed that members could earn returns of 120% in 60 days by selling bottled water and juice. They could either sell the products themselves or earn their profits by allowing SuraPure to sell on their behalf.

Mashamba said yesterday that SuraPure did not have its own bottling plant in Nelspruit, but bought bottles of water and juice from a company called Aqua Tiqua. He said SuraPure had bought R2.5m worth of water and made about R1.5m in profit.

Assets belonging to SuraPure

Surapure still has about

R200 000 worth of bottled water remaining. Its account contains R61m. “The money is safe … It cannot be used or moved until the investigation is finalised,” creditors were told.

Vehicles worth R600 000 will not be sold until the outcome of business rescue proceedings is clear.

Cornelius Van der Merwe, the managing director, says SuraPure has 98 000 members and owes them R41m. But the business rescue practitioners says only 18 000 active members have invested money in SuraPure.

Where to now?

Members must fill in a claim form detailing investments and withdrawals. Anything that happened later than April 7 must be recorded separately.

The SuraPure website continues to reflect profits being earned by members. The business rescue practitioners said that they had only been granted access to the website recently and would change this to reflect money owed to members instead.




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