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|Masts, mafias and murders|
|South Africa||Created: 13 Nov 2012|
Masts, mafias and murders
A longstanding fight with the South African company Vodacom (a subsidiary of Vodafone plc) over illegal wireless masts has erupted again, and I have decided to put on record some of the fraudulent activities of this company and its senior executives in this regard.
In this post, I will show direct and sustained links between top Vodacom executives and a prominent lawyer with known close connections with organised crime -- a lawyer who subsequently fled the country after (a) shooting a client dead in his law office, and (b) looting his own trust funds of millions of rands. The whereabouts of this lawyer, one George Michaelides, are currently unknown. http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2011/11/06/mystery-of-the-missing-millions
I am also making public a document that was drawn up to help the prosecuting authorities in South Africa to pursue fraud charges against one Leslie Cohen, an attorney who acted along with George Michaelides for Vodacom in the case of the Anastassiou family, who fought to remove an illegal 20m-high mast that Vodacom erected 11m from their prime property, overlooking Sandton in Johannesburg -- one of the most prosperous suburbs in the whole of Africa.
Michaelides, Cohen and another attorney (of whom more later) were charged with professional misconduct over their role in this business. http://www.mast-victims.org/index.php?content=news&action=view&type=newsitem&id=3575The charges of misconduct against all three were "frozen" because there were fraud charges outstanding against Cohen arising from the same affair. What this had to do with the misconduct charges against the other two lawyers is not clear.
In order to facilitate the justice process, I helped draw up the fraud charges against Leslie Cohen, so that the misconduct hearing could go ahead. In the end, the prosecuting authorities decided not to pursue these charges against Cohen. Nonetheless, I feel it is worth revealing the entire complex chronology of this saga in the document prepared for the prosecutors. Legal eagles can take a look and decide for themselves whether there was fraud involved in the way the Anastassious were bullied into selling their home.
This document for the prosecuting authorities details how Vodacom systematically lied to the Anastassiou family, telling them that they had lost all the court cases they had brought to remove the mast. As we shall see, this was a deliberate deception. On the basis of this lie, Vodacom fraudulently persuaded the family to sell their home to the company.
Crucially, Vodacom also persuaded the son, Dino, to sign an agreement -- drawn up by Vodacom, with his father's name printed below the space for signature -- which formally withdrew the family's objection to this mast. The father was suffering from terminal Alzheimer's disease, and was unable to sign for himself. This healthy, competent and gracious gentleman regularly drove his own car and was perfectly functional up to the time the mast went up, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease a few months after the mast started operating, became completely incapacitated and dependent, and subsequently died from this terrible illness. I have no doubt, all things being even, that he would still be alive if that mast had not been erected.
Dino Anastassiou is adamant that he was browbeaten by Vodacom into signing this agreement over his father's name, and that Vodacom were perfectly aware that the signature was not that of the person named in the document.
As soon as Vodacom had this signed document in hand, they rushed immediately that same afternoon to the Johannesburg City municipality lawyers, to get them to withdraw a case the City was about to bring the very next day in the High Court to get this illegal mast removed.
In their legal papers prepared for court, the City's lawyers said that Vodacom: "Apparently seeks to justify its said unlawful conduct by stating that it has done so on numerous previous occasions!" (exclamation mark in the original). It is thus clear that the City was aware of many other illegal Vodacom masts, and that Vodacom had made explicit reference to these illegal masts in order to justify the one in contention.
On the basis of this signed agreement, the City of Johannesburg withdrew its case against Vodacom. The City's lawyers have since stated that if they were aware that the signature on the document was not that of George Anastassiou the father, as stated, they would never have withdrawn the case. It is clear that Vodacom was terrified of this case going to court, and the CEO of the company at the time, Alan Knott-Craig, claimed on another occasion that he had personally come from a sickbed to try persuade the Anastassiou family to sell their home, in a meeting in a pizza restaurant. http://mybroadband.co.za/vb/showthread.php/143444-Vodacom-s-Dot-Field-and-Alan-Knott-Craig-act-like-they-are-mafia It is obvious that it was a matter of the utmost urgency for the company to make sure this court case never went ahead, even if it meant committing fraud.
Present on the day the family was persuaded to sell their home was Pieter Uys, then COO and later CEO of Vodacom. As CEO, he attended the hearing at the Law Society that arose from these events.
Most interesting on that fateful day at the Anastassiou house was the physical presence of one Dorothy Field, http://www.whoswho.co.za/dot-field-4974 then corporate communications manager for Vodacom, who has since left the company. A strange aspect of this case is that Field previously used to visit this very same house in order to receive beauty treatments, and was a friend of Mrs Teresa Anastassiou, the wife, who ran a beautician business from the custom-designed premises. Mrs Anastassiou asked Field to help in this case; Field replied (and this is confirmed in an affidavit she made) that she would be prepared to help the family, ONCE ALL COURT CASES HAD BEEN FINALISED.
Field's physical presence in the negotiations to buy the house thus confirmed to the family that there were indeed no outstanding court cases, as Vodacom was insisting. As will be seen, this was an outright lie, and the City of Johannesburg had a strong outstanding case against Vodacom regarding this mast. Since this lie on Dorothy Field's part to the family is repeated in an affidavit, it also constitutes perjury.
What is further interesting is that the house was not actually purchased by Vodacom, but rather by a "front" company operated by an employee in the legal firm of George Michaelides, one Maria Christine Fernandes. In the hearing before the Law Society, George Michaelides described Fernandes as "just our secretary". Investigations revealed that she is actually the director of over a dozen companies, including the one that bought the Anastassiou house: Scarlet Ibis Investments 23 (Pty) Ltd. Details (including part of the transcript of the Law Society hearing) can be found here. http://www.buergerwelle.de/assets/files/scanjob_20090602_173500.pdf?cultureKey=&q=pdf/scanjob_20090602_173500.pdf
This becomes extremely interesting in light of George Michaelides's sudden departure, stealing unknown millions in trust funds (some estimates put the amount stolen at over R100 million). This sudden flight also brought to light extensive connections between Michaelides and a number of known criminals, and in fact the killing committed by Michaelides in his office was just the beginning of a series of murders that occurred within this criminal circle. http://amabhungane.co.za/article/2011-03-25-the-murders-five-bodies-and-counting There have been several more killings since the report referenced here, and I have evidence of an even earlier murder that may have been connected with this. I posted details of this alleged murder here http://mybroadband.co.za/vb/showthread.php/445491-Shameel-Joosub-appointed-Vodacom-CEO/page6 see the post marked "Warning: Graphic Content".
We subsequently received information from a reliable source within Vodacom (described as "Source B" in the above post) who informed us that there was a major money-laundering operation being run by Vodacom and Michaelides Attorneys. Front companies owned by the latter were buying properties, using money that Vodacom was writing off as "legal fees". This source produced documents showing other extremely questionable property deals being done through the same channels.
In 2009 I became aware of a "secret" KPMG investigation into wrongdoing at Vodacom involving the then-CEO, Alan Knott-Craig. I phoned KPMG, and was referred to their "Vodacom expert". He denied any knowledge of such an inquiry. I told him that I knew for a fact that there was indeed such an inquiry, and told this "expert" to pass on some of the above information to the relevant investigators, particularly about George Michaelides and the shady front companies he was operating, buying properties on Vodacom's behalf.
Later, when this KPMG inquiry was publicly confirmed, http://mg.co.za/article/2010-01-22-vodacom-storm-in-a-bee-cup it became apparent that serious evidence of nepotism by Alan Knott-Craig had been uncovered, but it was all quietly hushed up by the Vodacom shareholders who commissioned the inquiry. I am certain that KPMG took no action on my information, even when it became evident that George Michaelides was indeed very crooked.
And we do know for a fact now that George Michaelides was up to no good. The Law Society has seized his files and is trying to unravel the tangled web of criminality in which he was involved. No information has been forthcoming from the Society as to what they have found. But there is no question that top Vodacom executives were deeply involved in extremely questionable business with this man.
Also interesting in this regard is that a third lawyer was also charged with misconduct before the Law Society in the Anastassiou case, one Eleni Christodoulou, who was a senior executive at Vodacom before she suddenly departed. It is now clear that she had been charged with perjury http://www.witness.co.za/index.php?showcontent&global[_id]=31405 following serious lies http://www.fin24.com/Companies/Tribunal-fingers-Vodacom-lawyer-20080724 she apparently told the competition authorities in South Africa on behalf of Vodacom, and this was why she suddenly left the company.
In the Law Society hearing into George Michaelides, Leslie Cohen and Eleni Christodoulou, Michaelides stated that it was "common knowledge" that his wife was in fact Eleni Christodoulou. This was news to me, but it made certain connections very clear. While the husband, George Michaelides, was given Vodacom money to buy up properties using various front companies, his wife was right at the top of Vodacom's legal services, and until her hasty departure from Vodacom when perjury charges were laid against her, would have been in an excellent position to make sure that any wrongdoing was covered up.
During this long-drawn-out legal saga with the Anastassious, Vodacom used the attorney Leslie Cohen extensively. I just want to put one last comment from Cohen on record.
On the day the Anastassious were bullied into selling their home, much against their wishes, a high-powered delegation, including the Chief Operating Officer, Pieter Uys, senior legal executive Eleni Christodoulou, and the Chief Communications Officer, Dorothy Field, arrived completely unexpectedly at the house, to begin the browbeating. At one point, Dino Anastassiou was outside with Leslie Cohen, while negotiations were proceeding within with the rest of the family. Cohen actually said the following to Dino: "Dino, I want to thank you. I've made a lot of money from you."
This saga shows just how corrupt and venal Vodacom has been since its very inception, and how it deploys its enormous resources to use the legal system to browbeat and crush people who get in its way. It is a very sad indictment of the state of corporate governance and the legal profession in South Africa.
In 2009, Dino Anastassiou made the essence of this information available directly to the CEO of Vodafone, http://www.scribd.com/doc/17171664/Vodacom-AllegationsSuspicions-in-South-Africa- and there is absolutely no way that Vodafone can say they were unaware of allegations of major, systematic illegality with Vodacom's infrastructure. Nor can Vodacom deny its extensive involvement with the now-fugitive lawyer, George Michaelides. How much of Vodacom's money disappeared with him will probably never be known. This is what happens when thieves fall out ...
So: what does Vodafone plc intend to do about allegations of systematic criminality among executives of its subsidiary?
Perhaps Vodafone can begin by looking at the criminal charges I laid against one Jannie van Zyl, http://www.mast-victims.org/index.php?content=journal&action=view&type=journal&id=227 one of Vodacom's present executives, dating from when he was CEO of the company iBurst in South Africa. (Incidentally, one of the charges of nepotism that the KPMG report detailed, was Alan Knott-Craig's installation of his son, Alan Knott-Craig Jr, as MD of iBurst, so there was a very close connection between these companies).
Van Zyl's ignominious departure from iBurst saw him return directly to Vodacom, where he was originally employed. Please examine this criminal charge sheet to see what a track record of lies and deceptions this top Vodacom executive has left behind him. These criminal charges stand. Is this the kind of person Vodafone endorses as a senior executive?
Below, now, is the document we drew up to pursue fraud charges against Leslie Cohen. Again: it must be emphasised that for one reason or another, the prosecuting authorities decided not to follow up on these charges. But the facts below all stand, and you can make up your own mind as to whether Vodacom acted legally and ethically in this case.
Again: this is a terribly complicated case, and I am grateful to anyone who has read this far. But these charges below took us months of painstaking work to draw up, and I do not wish this effort to go to waste. Since there is nothing sub judice here, there is no impediment on my releasing the full background history of the extremely dodgy purchase of the Anastassiou family home by Vodacom -- or rather, by the front company it used, Scarlet Ibis Investments 23.
Informant: Karl Muller
BACKGROUND OF EVENTS relating to fraud charges laid against Mr Leslie Cohen, attorney acting for Vodacom Ltd in the purchase of the home of Mr George Anastassiou and his family
Given the complexity of this case and its long history, a chronology is provided to facilitate understanding of its background. Mr Constantino Anastassiou (“Dino A”), the elder son of Mr George Anastassiou (“Mr A”) and Mrs Teresa Anastassiou (“Mrs A”) -- married in community of property under Egyptian law -- has assisted with the legal affairs of the family in this case.
1.0 Early 1990s: The Anastassiou family purchases Ext 5 erf 498 in Hurlingham Manor, 7 Dewetshof Place, a cul de sac chosen for its tranquillity and hilltop view of Sandton. They erect a purpose-built house for Mrs A to run her licensed beauty salon.
2.0 1996: The owner of the next-door property (erf 499) applies for rezoning to accommodate parking for his garage business across the road. After an appeal, the Townships Board allows parking on the stringent condition that “NO STRUCTURES WHATSOEVER (INCLUDING CARPORTS AND CANOPIES) SHALL BE ERECTED ON THE ERF”, final approval being given in March 1997 by the MEC.
3.0 January 27 1998: Vodacom erects a 20-metre-high mast and cellphone base station on erf 499. It appears that there are no plans, no permission sought or any approval given by the City Council for this installation. The Anastassiou family are surprised to find a mast, base station and equipment installed 11 metres from their home and blocking their view. An investigation by the family to establish the legality of the mast finds that there has been NO LEGAL APPROVAL for the erection of the structure. This is confirmed by Mr J Bosman, executive director of Development Planning, Transport and Environment of the City of Johannesburg, who declares that there is no file relating to the approval of the cellphone mast, and NO RECORD THEREOF on the government register. This is recorded in the Sandton Chronicle of August 31 2001 (Annexure 1).
4.0 September 4 2001: Two letters from Moodie & Robertson, attorneys acting for the Johannesburg City Council, are sent to Vodacom and the owner of erf 499 respectively, telling them that no structures are allowed on the property and instructing them to remove the cellphone mast (Annexures 2 and 3).
5.0 September 10 2001: Vodacom applies for erf 499 to be rezoned to accommodate the already-standing cellphone mast.
6.0 October 15 2001: A letter is given by hand to Dino A from Councillor Amos Masondo, Mayor of Johannesburg, confirming that instructions were given to Vodacom to remove the mast, and that Vodacom HAD NOT COMPLIED with the request; and that papers were being drawn up by the City’s lawyers, Moodie & Robertson, to seek a court interdict to have the structure removed (Annexure 4).
7.0 November 13 2001: The City of Johannesburg files a Notice of Motion, Case No 01/23978, for an interdict in the High Court to restrain Vodacom from using erf 499 for immovable property in contravention of the town planning scheme as this property was not zoned to accommodate such a structure.
8.0 April 25 2002: The Planning Tribunal makes a determination to approve the rezoning.
9.0 May 2 2002: Mayor Amos Masondo writes to Dino A telling him that his allegations of irregularities, bias of the Tribunal and non-action on the part of the Council’s attorneys are to be investigated, and he will be advised as to what action will be taken. His request for a full hearing is under consideration.
10.0 December 11 2002: the amendment to approve the rezoning is promulgated.
11.0 January 6 2003: Mr A and his family lodge an appeal against this rezoning on the grounds that Vodacom was seeking de jure approval for what had been done illegally when the mast was erected in January 1998.
12.0 May 8 and June 10 2003: Tribunal hearings of the Townships Board are held at the property in Hurlingham Manor.
13.0 October 23 2003: It is recommended by the Townships Board that the appeal be upheld and the rezoning overturned.
14.0 July 24 2004: Vodacom counter-appeals on grounds that the Townships Board gave a wrong fax number for submissions, and makes an application to the High Court to have this decision set aside. This matter is heard in February 2006.
15.0 April 20 2006: Following this High Court appeal, Vodacom gets a decision from the High Court setting aside the appeal against the rezoning, on the basis of the wrong fax number. As a result of this judgment, Vodacom makes representations to Moodie & Robertson that the effect of this is to reinstate the status quo ante, and the interdict application must fail. Moodie & Robertson take the view that this legal conclusion is incorrect as the rezoning had not been perfected (see Annexure 5).
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MEETING WITH VODACOM CEO AND CHIEF COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER
16.0 Friday April 21 2006: Dino A receives a telephone call from Dorothy Field, chief communications officer of Vodacom, asking him for a meeting with her and Alan Knott-Craig, CEO of Vodacom. They meet in Amici Pizzeria in Hurlingham Manor.
16.1 Knott-Craig tells Dino A that he has come out of hospital especially for this meeting. He says that he is worried that the mast may have to come down. According to Dino A, Knott-Craig says that “money is no problem” and offers him R4 million as some kind of unspecified settlement. Dino A refuses the offer and Knott-Craig then makes an offer of R4.5 million. Dino A avers that he did not know what this offer was in settlement for. Dino A replies that this offer is worthless with the family still having to remain in the house under the dangerous radiation of the cellphone mast. Dino A tells Knott-Craig that the house is on the market with a value of R2.5 million nett, and tells Knott-Craig that he should consider taking the house as well, subject to his parents’ approval; but adding that his father Mr A suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. He suggests that there should be six months’ free rental to allow his parents time to relocate. Knott-Craig appears to agree with this suggestion to buy the house and provide ex gratia rental.
16.3 Dino A is left with the understanding that a total offer of R7 million is to be made: R4.5 million for the unspecified settlement, and R2.5 million for the house. Knott-Craig says it is a deal, and shakes Dino A’s hand. He leaves, and Dino A confirms the figure of R7 million with Field, subject to his parents’ approval.
16.4 Field tells him that Vodacom “never loses a case” and won’t hesitate to take legal action for their costs if the family does not agree to the settlement.
16.5 That afternoon, Dino A speaks to his mother about the offer, which she was not interested in as she did not want to leave the house.
16.6 Dino A sends an SMS to Field and tells her that he is depressed; and that his parents have asked him to tell her to stop the deal, because they will “lose everything” and Dino A will be in trouble with his family. This SMS is confirmed in an affidavit dated November 10 2008 from Field.
17.0 Saturday April 22 2006: Field calls Dino A several times to see if he has persuaded his parents to accept the deal, but Dino A explains that his mother Mrs A runs a business from the house, and does not want to sell. There are several more calls from Field to Dino A on that Saturday and the next day.
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UNEXPECTED ARRIVAL OF VODACOM DELEGATION
18.0 Monday April 24 2006: Field calls Dino A again to see if his family have agreed to the settlement, and asks whether they have stopped fighting with him yet. Dino A tells her via SMS that the family still refuses, but says that he wishes to keep his word to try to convince them to accept the deal.
18.1 Later that morning, Field arrives unexpectedly at the house with a delegation. The family is surprised by this and lets them into the house. A meeting takes place in the house with the following people from Vodacom:
- Dorothy Field, chief communications officer of Vodacom;
- Helen Christodolou, in-house Vodacom attorney who drew up the documents;
- Maria Christina Fernandes, whose position is not known but who works for
Michaelides Attorneys, who are doing the conveyancing for Vodacom;
- Leslie Cohen, an attorney, part of the legal team appointed by Vodacom and
involved in this case from the outset;
- Pieter Uys, then chief operating officer (now CEO) of Vodacom.
18.2 There were drivers/bodyguards who remained outside the property, and the family avers that they felt hugely intimidated by the unannounced arrival of such a high-profile delegation. Dino A specifically confirmed with one of these people that he was a bodyguard.
18.3 Dino A is presented with a Memorandum of Agreement indicating a settlement of R2.5 million for the withdrawal of his father Mr A’s appeal (Annexure 6). Dino A tells his mother that this is not the amount offered for the settlement, and suggests that she phones her son-in-law Jiorgio Vlahakis as he does not want any further involvement in the matter. Vlahakis phones Field, who is still present at the house. According to an affidavit from Vlahakis dated December 12 2007 (Annexure 7), Field is at first reluctant to go into detail, so he asks her to confirm that the settlement figure offered is in fact R4.5 million EXCLUDING the sale of the house. She tells him he is “very well informed”, but that he and his wife Christina Vlahakis will also have to sign the confidentiality agreement, and he agrees, although he says it will take them time to come from Alberton. For details of this discussion see abovementioned affidavit made by Christina and Jiorgio Vlahakis dated December 12 2007.
18.4 This sequence of events is later confirmed by Christodolou in a statement to the Law Society dated November 10 2008 (Annexure 8), and CONTRADICTS Field’s affidavit of November 10 2008 (Annexure 9) that Field herself had spoken to Vlahakis over the weekend. Nonetheless, Field’s affidavit confirms that she advised him that he was “well informed” that the settlement figure was R4.5 million.
18.5 Mr A -- who was not present at any discussion -- is then brought in to sign a Memorandum of Agreement:
- as a conclusive settlement for the withdrawal of the appeal against the mast;
- an agreement confirming his intention to withdraw the appeal via an affidavit (to be drawn up by Vodacom);
- to get written confirmation of the withdrawal of the appeal from the Townships Board; and
- to undertake to sign a Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure Agreement.
In terms of the Memorandum, Vodacom undertakes to pay R2.5 million in return for the withdrawal of the appeal.
18.6 Dino A is outside talking with Cohen and the driver/bodyguard when his father Mr A sign this Memorandum. Both Mr A and Mrs A also sign the Title Deeds for the sale of the family’s home while Dino is outside. These Title Deeds are removed by Vodacom when they leave, and no copy is left for the family. Dino A only gets sight of these documents in 2008 through a complaint made to the Law Society in 2007.
18.7 Mrs A, who did not want to sell her home and did not understand the documents, says she was convinced by Maria Christina Fernandes to “sign here” on the understanding that the family would receive a total of R7 million. Mrs A confirms this in a hearing before the Law Society of the Northern Provinces on November 12 2008 (Page 99f of the transcript of the hearing).
18.8 Jiorgio and Christina Vlahakis arrive at the house a couple of hours later. Dino A is then called inside and asked also to sign the Memorandum of Agreement between Vodacom and his father, in the space provided above his father’s printed name. His father has apparently signed in the wrong place, lower in the page. Dino A tells them that he has no power of attorney to sign on his father’s behalf, and that the amount indicated of R2.5 million was NOT what was agreed in the discussion with Knott-Craig and Field. They tell him to sign nonetheless. Later, not in Dino A’s presence, next to his signature the words “Constantine Anastassiou under power of attorney” are added on Page 11 of the Memorandum of Agreement, apparently in the handwriting of Christodolou, who also filled in the names of the parties to the settlement in writing on Page 5 of the Memorandum. This addition was only discovered by Dino A when a requested copy of the Memoradum was delivered to the house the next day.
18.9 He is told by Uys and Cohen that the R4.5 million was to be attributed to the sale of the house, separately from the R2.5 million contained in the Memorandum, SPECIFICALLY CONFIRMING to Dino A and Mrs A a total amount of R7 million.
18.10 Dino A is then asked to sign the Withdrawal of Appeal against the mast as specified in the Memorandum of Agreement with his father Mr A (Annexure 10). He tells them once more that his father has Alzheimer’s disease and that he, Dino A, does not have Power of Attorney to sign on his behalf; they tell him to sign nonetheless, which he does.
18.11 This Notice of Withdrawal is delivered to Moodie & Robertson at 2:11pm on the same day by Leslie Cohen, as confirmed by the date stamp on the document. Neither Moodie & Robertson nor Vodacom informed Dino A that there was a High Court case on the matter set down for April 26 2006, two days after the Memorandum was signed under such extreme pressure. Dino A avers that he would NOT have signed this document if he had been aware of the imminent case.
18.12 Field, on Page 2 of her affidavit (Annexure 9) says she informed Dino A by phone on April 21 2006, the same day as the meeting with her and Knott-Craig, that the matter in the High Court HAD BEEN SET ASIDE. She states that Dino A indicated that he was unaware of this. In fact, the matter WAS SET ASIDE ONLY on April 26 2006, as confirmed by the covering page of the High Court file in the matter. On Page 1 of the affidavit, Field states that she offered to help Mrs A with the relocation “once the matter is no longer in court”. Her presence on Monday April 24 2006 therefore indicates to the family that the matter had been legally settled -- TWO DAYS BEFORE the court hearing.
● Cohen in his testimony to the Law Society (Annexure 11, Page 31-33) states that the house was bought by Vodacom “very generously” for R2 million, considering that there had not been an offer on the house. He adds that an additional amount of R2.5 million was paid as financial compensation for “loss of memory and a host of other delicate conditions”.
● Field says on Page 2 of her affidavit (Annexure 9) that the HOUSE was bought for R4.5 million in full and final settlement, some R2 million more than they had been offered on the market.
● Christodolou in her statement to the Law Society dated November 10 2006 (Annexure 8) also states that the amount of R4.5 million “was to be attributed to the sale of the PROPERTY”.
Apart from the contradiction between Cohen and the other two, NONE of these parties mentions the Memorandum of Agreement, which specifies an amount of R2.5 million for the Withdrawal of Appeal.
18.14 Moodie & Robertson indicated in a letter dated October 8 2008 (Annexure 12) that they were unaware that the Notice of Withdrawal had not been signed by Mr A himself. Cohen was aware at the time he presented this document that it was not signed by Mr A, and that Dino A had no power of attorney to sign on his father’s behalf.
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DINO ANASTASSIOU AVERS THE FOLLOWING:
1) Besides being directly told at least three times, Vodacom were aware that Mr A suffered from Alzheimer’s disease through several mentions of this fact in the media, and knew that he was not fit to sign any legal document. See Saturday Star on October 30 2004 (Annexure 13), which states that his father Mr A “has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease”, and that Dino A had been diagnosed with lymphocytosis, an early form of leukaemia.
Christodolou in her statement to the Law Society (Annexure 8) confirmed that Vodacom were aware of the media coverage.
Vodacom were thus aware that they were concluding an agreement with someone who was not of full mental capacity. His signatures on April 24 2006 all differ from his signature on his driver’s licence, his normal signature. Tthese do not appear to be his normal signature, and on the Memorandum of Agreement he signs his name “Anastasssiou” with three s’s.
2) When Dino A signed the Memorandum of Agreement between his father and Vodacom, he told Vodacom specifically that he had no power of attorney to do so. He told them again at that point that his father had Alzheimer’s, and they could see that he did not know what he was signing. Dino A was nonetheless told to sign, and he did so. Dino A states on Page 3 of an affidavit dated June 22 2009 (Annexure 14) that considering his medical condition of clinically diagnosed depression and the “constant intimidation that was imposed on me to convince my family to settle, has caused me to become under duress”. See Annexure 15 for details of the antidepressants, sleeping tablets and tranquillisers he was using from January 2006.
Mrs A made reference to an old and revoked power of attorney; however it was made clear to Vodacom that this was no longer valid.
3) Christodolou says in her statement (Annexure 8) that Mr A joined the discussion only to sign the documents; she says that while he was “clearly elderly and ailing”, she did not have the impression that he did not understand the settlement. Yet she herself, as well as Field in her statement (Annexure 9), note that HE WAS NOT PRESENT when the settlement was being discussed, and that he was unaware of what he was signing.
4) Vodacom submitted the Withdrawal of Appeal to Moodie & Robertson knowing that the signature was not that of Mr A, but that of his son Dino A. The Memorandum of Agreement stated that an affidavit (to be provided by Vodacom) would be signed by Mr A to confirm the withdrawal; no such affidavit was ever signed by Mr A. Other conditions of the Memorandum, including that Mr A obtain written confirmation from the Townships Board of his withdrawal of Appeal, were also not fulfilled.
5) Given that the Memorandum of Agreement was signed by Mr A, the question needs to be asked why NONE of the other obligations placed on him by the Memorandum of Agreement, including signing the Withdrawal of Appeal and the Confidentiality Agreement, were fulfilled by him. The General section of the Title Deeds (Annexure 16, Page 9) states: “This Agreement is subject to the due fulfilment of all the obligations arising under in terms of an Agreement concluded between George Anastassiou and Vodacom (Pty) Ltd and failing such due performance, this Agreement will be deemed to be null and void and of no force and effect.” Given that it appears that George Anastassiou did not fulfil ANY of these obligations, it therefore appears that the sale of the house is null and void.
See Annexure 17, an affidavit drawn up by Vodacom on behalf of Mr A, which is signed by Dino A as the deponent instead of Mr A, and which has not been authenticated by a Commissioner of Oaths, or dated.
6) Vodacom were aware that they were once again facing a High Court action brought by the City of Johannesburg, set down for April 26 2006 with no further postponements allowed; and it is apparent that this was why they urgently concluded an agreement with this family, in the process:
- severely compromising the legality of any agreements by obtaining the signature of a man who clearly did not understand what he was signing;
- violating the rights of Mrs A, who was clearly not happy with the sale of the house, and was coerced into signing on promises of a R7 million settlement which did not materialise;
- ignored the fact that Dino A was himself depressed (Fields’ affidavit, Annexure 9, shows she was aware Dino A was depressed), had no power of attorney, and was not authorised to conclude the agreements which they told him to sign.
7) Dino A obtained a judgment on September 21 2006 in the High Court declaring his father to be of unsound mind and incapable of managing his own affairs (Annexure 18).
It is recommended that Vodacom, represented by Uys, Field and Christodolou, and its legal representatives Cohen of Law Chambers as well as Michaelides Attorneys as represented by Fernandes, be charged with fraud. Misrepresentation took place when documents were presented to Moodie & Robertson for the removal of an Appeal against a mast which the City Council said was illegal, and which documents Vodacom knew were not signed by the appellant named in the Withdrawal.
In the concise Heads of Argument from the City of Johannesburg to the High Court dated April 24 2006 (Annexure 19), the City states that Vodacom “apparently seeks to justify its said unlawful conduct by stating that it has done so on numerous previous occasions!” (sic). It appears that Vodacom resorted to desperate measures to prevent this case from coming before the court.
Vodacom over a period of at least eight years have gained huge profit illegally, and have resorted to fraudulent means to overcome objections to the mast -- there were 128 objections from the community -- and in doing so have severely compromised the lives and wellbeing of an entire family.
|Source: Karl Muller|
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