Category: VAT

men businessman showing empty pockets hiding behind wads of mone

‘n Persoon skuld jou miljoene rande, maar wanneer hy gesekwestreer word, blyk dit dat hy oor geen bates beskik nie. Dan kom dit onder jou aandag dat hy ‘n trustee is van ‘n welgestelde familietrust met baie bates wat jy vermoed eintlik syne is. Kan jy enigiets van die trust opeis om jou skuld te verhaal?
Onder sekere omstandighede sou jy dit wel kon regkry, maar dit is ver van ‘n algemene reël af. ‘n Onlangse saak wat in die Appèlhof aangehoor is, illustreer die moontlikhede.
Die piramiedeskema, selfmoord en vee ter waarde van R11 miljoen wat skoonveld is. 
  • ‘n Voormalige boer en veehandelaar het selfmoord gepleeg. Hy het skulde van R35 miljoen agtergelaat. In die proses het hy heelwat plaaslike boere en sakemense in sy piramiedeskema ingetrek en bedrieg. Ingevolge die skema sou boere met “beleggingskontrakte” hul vee op plase by hom laat wei. Hy het die plase gehuur en uiteindelik sou die boere hul vee saam met die vee se nageslag as opbrengs weer terugkry.

  • Die veehandelaar het selfmoord gepleeg, waarna sy bestorwe boedel deur die hof as insolvent verklaar is.

  • Een van die grootste skuldeisers het 1501 stukke vee met ‘n geraamde waarde van R11 miljoen verloor. Hierdie skuldeiser het die Hooggeregshof genader om die trust te sekwestreer waarin die plaaseiendom geregistreer was en waarvan die oorlede bedrieër in lewe ‘n trustee was. Die skuldeiser het aangevoer dat die trust die bedrieër se alter ego was. Volgens hom was die trustvorm hier misbruik en was daar nooit werklike enige skeiding van die bates van die oorledene en van die trust nie. Die trusts se finansiële sake is nooit afsonderlik gehou nie; daar was nie werklik sprake van onderskeiding van bates tussen hom as persoon en in sy hoedanigheid as trustee van die trust nie; hy het die trustfondse ook gebruik asof dit deurgaans sy eie was.

  • Die Hooggeregshof het geweier om ‘n sekwestrasiebevel teen die trust uit te reik; en die Appèlhof het met hierdie bevinding saamgestem. Die skuldeiser se eis was ongelukkig beperk net teen die oorledene se boedel, daar was geen eis teen die trust nie. Die skuldeiser het gevolglik nie enige gronde gehad om die trust te sekwestreer nie. Die hof bevind hierbenewens dat –

    • Indien die skuldeiser beweer het dat sy vee in groot getalle deur die trust gehou is of wanaangewend is, moes hy die hof eerder genader het vir ‘n bevel om teruggawe van sy vee, alternatiewelik vir skadevergoeding teen die trust as gevolg van die verliese van die vee. Om so vanuit die staanspoor weg te val met ‘n aansoek vir sekwestrasie van die trust, is glad nie regtens aanvaarbaar nie.

    • Indien die trust inderdaad ‘n skyntrust was (“a sham”), kan dit nie gesekwestreer word nie, want dit bestaan regtens nie. Jy kan nie iets sekwestreer wat nie bestaan nie.

    • Indien dit later sou blyk dat daar bates in die trust was, wat eintlik bates van die oorledene was, sou dit nie die skuldeiser se plek wees om die bates van die trust op te eis nie. Dit sou slegs die aangestelde trustees van die insolvente boedel wees wat hierdie funksie sou kon uitoefen.

  • Die hof bevind dat die skuldeiser eerstens sy volledige eis teen die insolvente boedel moes bewys. Daarna moes hy dan aandring op ‘n ondervraging om vas te stel of daar gronde was waarop die boedel die vee van die trust sou kon opeis en /of skadevergoeding van die trust kon eis.
Die aanslag op ‘n trust 101
Indien jy die geldigheid van ‘n truststruktuur wil aanval, sou jy die hof kon vra vir ’n bevel om te verklaar dat die trust se bates as die persoonlike bates van die skuldenaar verklaar moet word. Ingevolge ‘n bekende uitspraak van die Hooggeregshof in 2014, moet jy onderskei tussen twee verskillende gevalle met trusts. Die twee sluit mekaar uit –
  1. Jy moet aanvoer dat die trust ‘n skyn is (“a sham”) en nie werklik bestaan nie; of

  2. Indien die trust nie ‘n skyntrust is nie en dus wel bestaan, kan jy die hof steeds nader om rondom die trustvorm te werk en te kyk wat werklik aangaan. In die proses vra jy ook dat die normale gevolge van trusteienaarskap in geheel of gedeeltelik opgeskort word. (You ask the court to “go behind the trust form” or to “pierce its veneer” and to disregard “the ordinary consequences of [the trust’s] existence”.) Die hof is dan by magte om byvoorbeeld te beveel dat trustbates in werklikheid bates in die trustee se persoonlike boedel is.
Hierdie is egter ‘n uiters gespesialiseerde regsgebied – vra jou prokureur om jou hierin by te staan en te adviseer.
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reading word whistleblower office magnifying glass 3d illustration

For many years now the “Whistleblower’s Act” (actually the Protected Disclosures Act or “PDA”) has been providing protection to employees who report unlawful or improper conduct by their employers or fellow employees.

Recent updates to the PDA have extended protection to independent contractors, consultants, agents and workers employed by labour brokers. There is also a new requirement for employers to put in place “internal procedures for receiving and dealing with information about improprieties”.

Reprisals against a whistleblower (in the form of any type of “occupational detriment”) will land an employer in very hot water indeed. For example if the reprisal takes the form of a dismissal, it is “automatically unfair” and that carries substantial risk such as a compensation order of up to 24 months’ salary.

A case of incompatibility or retaliation?

  • An employee of a large organisation came to believe that several of her subordinates’ positions had been re-graded to a lower grade, without their knowledge or consultation, and that this both negatively impacted on their future salaries and distorted the accuracy of the company’s employment equity report. She reported this to her immediate superiors, then to the company’s internal audit department and to senior executives, but received no feedback.
  • Out of the blue she was presented with a termination offer, and when she didn’t accept it she was summarily dismissed for “incompatibility with colleagues”.
  • Her claim for automatically unfair dismissal in terms of the PDA was rejected by the Labour Court, but on appeal to the Labour Appeal Court her claim was upheld and she was awarded compensation of 18 months’ salary, with her employer ordered to pay all legal costs.
  • In reaching this decision, the Court considered several important questions –
    • Was the whistleblower’s disclosure made in good faith, in accordance with procedure, and based on a reasonable belief that it was substantially true? If so, the disclosure is a protected one. Importantly, said the Court, the whistleblower need not prove a factual basis for the belief “because a belief can still be reasonable even if the information turns out to be inaccurate.”
    • Was it reasonable in all the circumstances for the whistleblower to have made the disclosure? On the facts, held the Court, the whistleblower had acted reasonably and the employer’s contention that the dismissal was based on incompatibility was “nothing short of fiction and the only probability is that the appellant’s dismissal was in retaliation for her disclosure of the irregularities in the re-grading process.”

The lesson for whistleblowers

The PDA provides you with strong protections if you follow the correct procedures; just be sure you will be able to pass the tests posed by the above questions.

The lesson for employers

Don’t take action against a whistleblower just because a disclosure is factually incorrect – it is the reasonableness or not of the employee’s belief, and the “good faith” requirement, that you should concentrate on. Make sure also to have a whistleblower policy in place and to tell all your employees about it – not only is that now a legal requirement, but your business can only benefit from uncovering any improper or criminal conduct going on behind your back.

As always, with our labour laws being so complicated, and the penalties for breaching them so severe, take specific advice on your particular situation.

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