Ponzi scheme masterminds granted R100 000 bail each

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Durban – Investors involved in a R500 million Ponzi scheme expressed disappointment this week when Carmol Distributors’ boss, Yunus Moolla, and his wife, Fathima Carawan, were released on R100 000 bail each on Thursday.

Angry investors filled the courtroom at the Durban Commercial Crime Court when Moolla and Carawan made their appearance.

The couple’s arrest came almost two years after their alleged scheme was placed under investigation by the SA Reserve Bank.

Moolla and Carawan were represented by advocate Mokotedi Mpshe SC, the former acting National Director of Public Prosecutions, and attorney Ahmed Asmal.

Investors had hoped they would be reimbursed, but were shocked when they heard that the couple had no money after their bank accounts and assets were frozen and were surviving on financial support from friends and family.

The couple is accused of 11 397 counts of fraud and face additional charges of money laundering, theft and contravening the Banks Act.

The company, worth half a billion rand, claimed to finance the sale of petroleum products and attracted almost 4 000 investors.

An investigation by the reserve bank in 2014 revealed that Carmol had contravened the Banks Act. It conducted the business of banking by illegally taking deposits from people.

Carmol had offered investors a high return of 6 percent to 8 percent a month.

The couple were deemed a flight risk due to regular trips to Dubai. State prosecutor Wendy O’Brien did not oppose bail but asked that Moolla hand over his passports. She said due to the serious nature of the case, and the number of lives affected, bail should have been set at R1m.

Investors nodded their heads in agreement, but Mpshe argued that the couple did not have that amount of money available.

The court heard that Moolla’s scheme had left investors in dire straits. O’Brien said people had lost their cars and homes, and some had died as a result of the financial stress he had caused. Some pensioners had put their life savings into the scheme.

The matter was postponed to February for the State to prepare its case.

Outside court, an investor who did not want to be named, said he was upset with the low bail granted.

“He should be denied bail after all the lives he has messed up. We have waited longer than a year-and-a-half for him to be arrested. And when he is finally arrested, he gets bail so easily.

“It is not fair to the thousands of investors who suffered and lost everything because of him.”

Another investor, Colin Moopanar, said he was glad the law was taking its course, but it was not fair for Moolla to get off “so easily – R100 000 is nothing compared with all the lives he has ruined”.

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