Three members of the Aldum family and practising attorney Clifford Coombe are being charged with theft, fraud and contraventions of the Banks Act, says Rapport. The Aldum family members were arrested by the Hawks and appeared in the Johannesburg Commercial Crimes Court last week. Coombe is listed as an accused on the charge sheet, but didn’t appear and NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane says his current whereabouts are not known.

Some 1 600 investors poured R1.6bn into the Bridge group of companies which specialised in granting micro loans to the poor, debt collection of the loans, obtaining emoluments attachment orders (EAOs) and reselling the debt to be serviced through the EAOs.

The complainant in the matter, Leon Strydom, invested R1.3m in the group only a day before the company was placed in business rescue. The state alleges that the funds were never invested. Bridge investors saw their returns dwindle from a high of 19% to 1% and currently receive no income.

Coombe’s law firm, Flemix & Associates, was the target of philanthropist Wendy Appelbaum who exposed doubtful EAO practices where orders are obtained in provinces where debtors did not live. The Stellenbosch University Law Clinic is involved in another lawsuit against two of the Bridge-associated debt collection companies for similar alleged irregularities. Corné Aldum and his sons, Maritz and Emile, were granted bail of R10 000 each and will appear in court again in October.

Full report in Rapport (subscription needed)