The SA Institute of Auctioneers (SAIA) has convened an urgent meeting tomorrow to discuss the kickback scandal that has broken involving one of its board members, Auction Alliance chairman Rael Levitt.
Speaking to the Cape Times last night, the vice-chairman of SAIA, John Cowing, said he was concerned about the allegations made against Levitt. He did not want the industry’s reputation to be “tarnished”.
“If these practices are going on then they need to be investigated and stopped,” Cowing said.
“I don’t think we should all suffer as a result of these indiscretions.”
A Cape Times sister paper, Weekend Argus, reported at the weekend that insiders had blown the lid on alleged business dealings connecting bank staff, liquidators and attorneys in a money-making racket.
Among the allegations, given in affidavits, were that payments were made to liquidators, attorneys and bank staff to get business for Auction Alliance and that bogus bidders were used to drive up bids at auctions.
In one instance, documentation pointed to payouts of R500 000 in cash to attorneys.
Levitt has denied any wrongdoing.
The story unfolded after businesswoman and philanthropist Wendy Appelbaum disputed the Auction Alliance sale of Quoin Rock Wine Estate in December.
After investigating the auction, Appelbaum said she had bid against herself and insisted that the other bidder, who offered less, was a hoax bidder.
She has lodged a complaint with the Consumer Protection Commission.
Cowing said the institute’s committee would meet tomorrow to discuss their course of action.
It would “ask (Levitt) to give his views on what has been said”.
“The allegations are certainly going to have an effect on the industry as a whole, andthat concerns us,” Cowing added.
He said he would welcome any investigation into other auction companies.
“We need to show that this is a clean industry and we need to ensure that the profession’s integrity is protected.”
The institute is expected to hold a press conference after the meeting tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Estate Agencies Affairs Board (EAAB) has launched its own investigation into the Auction Alliance matter.
Sandton attorney Andrew Scarrott has been appointed by the EAAB to investigate the matter.
“The EAAB has received some documentation and the documents are being taken seriously,” he said, adding that it would be inappropriate to comment further.
Last week, Levitt threatened to interdict the publication of the story by Independent Newspapers, saying its “defamatory” content “would cause irreparable damage” to his business.
The application for an interdict was withdrawn later in the week after an out-of-court settlement. - Cape Times