However, the 28-year-old Van Schalkwyk was adamant that he could deliver on his promises, and investors kept receiving their “interest”, even after media reports exposed the fact that the scheme was illegal.
Date: 04 November 2023 By: Anton van Zyl
A few months before De Necker Van Schalkwyk was murdered in Hermanus, he seemed to want to stop his investment scheme and repay the investors. This is evident from the correspondence with the lawyers he had approached to assist him with the process of legalising the scheme.
Ms Nicolene Schoeman-Louw, managing director of the law firm Schoeman Louw Inc in Cape Town, responded to questions the Zoutpansberger sent to the firm two weeks ago. She confirmed that Van Schalkwyk had approached them shortly after media reports began appearing about the get-rich-quick scheme that he was operating, mainly in Louis Trichardt.
In June and July of this year, the Zoutpansberger reported on the investment scheme, where investors were promised 10% and even 12% interest per month. An investment that delivers a return of 12% per month would equate to an annual interest rate of 290%. Many people believed that the promises were unrealistic and that this was simply a Ponzi scheme.
However, the 28-year-old Van Schalkwyk was adamant that he could deliver on his promises, and investors kept receiving their “interest”, even after media reports exposed the fact that the scheme was illegal. Van Schalkwyk was not registered as a financial advisor and was not allowed to take any deposits from members of the public. The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA), the body that regulates the industry, also issued a warning, confirming that conducting financial services without a license is a criminal offense.
The number of people who invested in the scheme and the total amount of money involved were never certain. Van Schalkwyk seemingly ran the investment scheme in his personal capacity, with the assistance of some friends in Louis Trichardt. Dozens of people are believed to have invested, with the total amount running into tens of millions. Van Schalkwyk relocated and moved into a home in Hermanus at the end of 2022.
However, everything came to an abrupt end on 11 October this year when Van Schalkwyk’s body was found next to a road in a small nature reserve in Hermanus. He had been shot in the head. Three people were arrested in connection with his death the same day and appeared on charges of murder and possession of stolen property.
Van Schalkwyk’s death caused a lot of uncertainty among the investors because payments suddenly stopped, and no one seemed to know what would happen to their money. Some investors were told by people who had previously promoted the scheme that “the money is safe in a trust account of the lawyer”. When asked who the lawyer was, the name of Mr Johan de Lange of Schoeman-Law Inc in Cape Town was mentioned.
However, this turned out not to be true, and no money was deposited into the trust account of the lawyers. “We do not hold any funds for any of the investors – we never have. It is not a firm policy to offer financial services of this nature. Moreover, we do not believe that it is a law firm’s function to do so,” said Schoeman-Louw.
Ms Schoeman-Louw explained that they were approached by Van Schalkwyk, firstly because he was upset about the allegations made in the articles. The firm offered to assist in dealing with the media but also advised Van Schalkwyk on compliance issues with his business. The initial plan was that a multi-disciplinary advisory team would be set up, which would also make use of other experts outside their law firm.
“Our client also engaged directly with the FSCA, the outcome of which we were not privy to. Moreover, according to our records and instructions, he communicated directly and personally with all investors that their money would be reimbursed during September/October 2023. He also worked with another provider (specialising in forex / SARB compliance) to facilitate this,” Schoeman-Louw added.
She stated clearly that their firm was not part of the reimbursement process at all, nor at any point thereof. “Our instructions were to wait for the client to coordinate the repayments, whereafter we would assist with the complete restructuring of his business operation. Regrettably, our client passed away before this part of the process was started,” she said.
When local investors the Zoutpansberger spoke to in the past week were told that no money was in trust with a Cape Town lawyer, some of them were quite desperate. “What do I do now? Must I go and see a lawyer?” one investor, who did not want his name to be mentioned, asked.
Schoeman-Louw Inc had quite evidently been contacted by several investors, and they had even compiled a list to try and assist the family of Van Schalkwyk. “We agreed to assist the family (and by default the proposed executor) by keeping a list of all persons who contacted us in relation to our client’s passing. To date, despite various efforts, we have not been contacted by the proposed or appointed executor and, as such, assume that our mandate will not continue beyond the end of this month, nor do we anticipate that it will be altered in line with the changed circumstances,” said Schoeman-Louw.
As to who the executor is, no certainty exists. Some believed that to be De Necker Van Schalkwyk’s brother, Christi, who lives in Mokopane.
Questions were sent via WhatsApp to some of the family members, asking them to either send these on to the executor or provide the contact details of the executor. In spite of follow-up requests, no response was received.
The three suspects arrested after Van Schalkwyk’s murder appeared in the Hermanus Magistrate’s Court again on Wednesday (1 November), where they applied for bail. Michael Kwaki (36) and Simnikiwe Siyabonga Ntonga (37) face charges of the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, as well as suspected stolen property. They were given bail of R500 each and must appear in court again on 29 November. Sandile Lumatha (40) was charged with Van Schalkwyk’s murder and did not get bail. His case was postponed to 7 November.
Anton van Zyl has been with the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror since 1990. He graduated from the Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) and obtained a BA Communications degree. He is a founder member of the Association of Independent Publishers.