The Banksy artwork, the missing millions and the ‘lying’ Mr Levick

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Martin Levick, the former
CEO of investment house Genesis Capital, has been provisionally sequestrated
and is facing criminal and civil legal action amidst allegations of fraud.

Levick, who was known as an
innovator and deal-maker in the Johannesburg business community, has been
removed as a director and chief executive of the group of companies his father
Selwyn originally started decades ago, and which he joined in 1999.

A sequestration application
was heard in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on April 23, and a
provisional order was granted with a return date for a final order in June.

As Levick’s empire has come
tumbling down around him, trustees have been appointed to oversee his estate.
Levick, who has homes in Houghton and on Clifton beach in Cape Town, and who
until recently drove an expensive Aston Martin, has already been visited by the
sheriff.

Numerous creditors have
come forward claiming that Levick owes them tens of millions of rands through
his “desperate and dishonest conduct”, “trickery” and
“fraudulent” behaviour. Some affected suggest the total amount that
will be claimed will be in excess of R1.5bn.

Levick denies defrauding
any creditors.

The Hawks have confirmed
that two separate criminal cases are being investigated by the Johannesburg Commercial
Crime and Serious Economic Crime Unit. Levick has given a warning statement to
the investigators in one case.

How the debt kept piling up

From court papers and
multiple interviews with business partners, creditors and lawyers over the past
month, a picture has emerged of a wheeling and dealing businessman who got into
trouble by allegedly borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.

As a director and
significant shareholder in both Genesis Capital (Pty) Ltd and Genesis Capital
Partners, Levick was perfectly placed in the business elite to convince those
with money to invest with him. He claimed to be worth R1.3bn, with assets in
his name and money in offshore bank accounts.

But towards the latter part
of 2018, a number of individuals, who had long business and personal
relationships with Levick, began calling in their loans or their investments.
Levick negotiated payment agreements with many of them, but in most cases the
payments were allegedly not made as promised. The creditors claim that what
followed was a series of alleged incidents of fraud committed to pay off
preferred individuals.

This culminated in a
sequestration application brought by Rael Segal and Segal Super (Pty) Ltd on a
semi-urgent basis. The applicants claimed $29m from Levick, in his personal
capacity.

Three additional
intervening creditors joined the legal action. These included:

 – Two entities, Chester Holdings Limited and
Illovo Limited, represented by former Brait-CEO Anthony Ball claiming a total
of $7.5m

 – Christopher Brand claiming R57m and $13m
(totally approximately R240m)

 – AMB Capital represented by Chris Vosloo
claiming €3m

Ultimately, only the
Chester/Illovo application, brought by Fluxmans Inc, was successful on
technical reasons. Fluxman’s Saul Shoot confirmed that Levick did not oppose
their application.

The brazen Banksy scam

In a lengthy affidavit,
businessman Anthony Ball details through emails and text messages with Levick,
how he allegedly attempted to pull off a sensational “fraud”
involving an artwork by famous English street artist, Banksy.

Banksy art work

Banksy art work. (Supplied)

Ball has confirmed that he
knew Levick for a number of years, during which time Levick had presented a
number of business opportunities to him.

In July 2018, Levick
approached Ball and asked him for a loan of R30m. The loan agreement was signed
between ‘Illovo’ and Genesis UK, the UK arm of Genesis Capital. Levick bound
himself as a personal guarantor for Genesis UK.

Ball alleges that the
documents which Levick used in this first deal, to give the impression that he
was a duly authorised representative of Genesis UK, were used in “carrying
out the elaborate theft of the stolen funds under false pretences”.

Central to this was a
letter from Catherine Hewett of Fourways auditing firm Thort Chartered
Accountants. In it, Hewett writes that “this letter serves to confirm that
Martin Levick has always shown a high degree of integrity, judgement and
responsibility… He is a captain of industry and has been in business for many
successful years”.

She goes on to say, “I
confirm based on the information received by ourselves that Martin Levick
assets amount to R1 296 930 000”.

On the basis of this
letter, Ball thought Levick was good for the money. The letter also contained
an attached schedule, listing Levick’s assets and bank accounts locally and
abroad. However, it has since emerged that neither his home in Cape Town, valued
at R180m, or in Houghton, valued at R30m, are registered in his name.

News24 attempted to contact
Hewett. Her attorney Kim Warren sent a statement in response: “As
discussed, our client confirms that she prepared the letter of 22 October 2018
in which she confirmed that according to the information at her disposal,
Levick’s assets amounted to R1 296 930,00. No schedule was attached
to client’s letter and particularly the schedule purportedly attached to the
letter headed ‘assets and liabilities as at 30 September 2018’ was not prepared
by our client. As discussed with you, client’s letter of 22 October 2018 refers
to Levick’s assets (it does not take into account his liabilities) and not to
his net asset value. Our client cannot advise who prepared the schedule. She
can only confirm that such schedule was not utilised by her in her letter of 22
October 2018.”

Then in September,
Glenhazel actuary Maon Jacobson, who is also an avid art collector, told Levick
that he was planning on buying a 2006 Banksy artwork called Grannies at a price of £1m. In November
2018, Levick promised to lend Jacobson the money on the basis that Levick’s
“trustees” required due diligence on the artwork before advancing
funds.

“Mr Levick abused this
information as a platform to spin a tale and steal Illovo’s funds under false
pretences,” argues Ball.

Towards the end of 2018,
Levick presented a business opportunity to Ball. He would lend Jacobson the
money to buy Grannies and Levick
would sell it on to his “friend”, billionaire Natie Kirsh’s daughter
Wendy, at a substantial profit. He would buy the artwork for $3.5m and sell it
to Kirsh for $10.5m, and they would split the profit 50/50.

If Ball was to procure the
$3.5m and advance it to Genesis UK for the specific purpose of purchasing the
artwork, funds would be made available to Jacobson to buy it.

On November 24, Levick sent
a message to Ball: “I have a game changer even in Naties (sic) world … I
am so excited to tell you!!!”.

Ball asked Levick whether
it was ethically correct for him to profit from a business opportunity out of a
deal with his supposed friend, who he had a close relationship with. He says
Levick told him that Kirsh was comfortable with the arrangement and even
allegedly suggested to Levick to use the profits to purchase an apartment next
to his in Trump Towers in New York.

It is unclear if Natie
Kirsh or his daughter Wendy were ever interested in buying the artwork or even
aware of the deal.

But according to Ball,
“the entire Supposed Art Work Business Opportunity was a fraudulent
fiction created by Mr Levick” and use of the documents for the initial
loan “was merely one of the many elaborate components of the fraud
perpetrated by him”.

Levick procured a letter
from Pest Control Handling Services, the management company for Banksy, under
false pretences that he intended lending money to Jacobson to buy the artwork.

“This was all simply
part of Mr Levick’s trickery…Mr Levick had created the false impression that
Genesis UK would be purchasing the artwork and selling it for a profit, all of
which was untrue,” says Ball.

On December 4, 2018, Illovo
paid $3.5m to Genesis UK, to fund the “Supposed Art Work Deal”. What
Anthony Ball and his trustees didn’t know at the time, which they subsequently
found out, was that the money never went to Maon Jacobson to pay for the Grannies artwork. Instead, it was
allegedly funnelled off into the account of another Levick creditor, Warren
Friedland.

An SMS exchange contained
in the court papers, between Levick and Genesis UK MD Lewis Bloch on December
5, shows the desperation to get the money into Friedland’s account:

Martin 14.14: It has to
reflect in Warrens
(sic) acc today or I stand to loose (sic) a fortune.

Martin 16.25: Oy I need to
do the transfer to Warren today – if I fail, I loose
(sic) $17m.
So concerned.

Lewis 16.47: I am busy
speak to them again. I’m on hold while they are trying to sort out. 5th cup of
coffee. I won’t sleep for the next week
.

Martin 16.50: I’m so sorry
Lew and so stressed.

In an email in the court
papers, Genesis UK’s attorneys told Ball’s UK lawyers that Genesis UK had
nothing to do with the deal.

“It appears that your
client has been defrauded by Martin Levick, director and shareholder of Genesis
Capital (Pty) Ltd South Africa,” the email read.

In reality, what happened
was that Jacobson purchased the artwork on December 9, and did not receive any
funds from Levick. But for more than three months, Levick “unlawfully,
intentionally and under false pretences” continued to “mendaciously
perpetuate the fraud” by continuing with the “charade”. Ball’s
affidavit details multiple examples of this.

In early April, Levick
agreed to a repayment plan but Ball’s entities never received any money from
him.

“Mr Levick’s modus
operandi … is transparently to obfuscate, delay and mendaciously dishonour his
payment obligations to his creditors, as well as to prefer those creditors who
place him under the most pressure thereby preferring them over his other
creditors,” explains Ball.

“Mr Levick will have
no hesitation in repeating his dishonest pattern of theft and fraud and of
preferring some of his creditors and prejudicing others. Mr Levick will
self-evidently devise further unlawful schemes in order to avoid being held to
account to his general body of creditors. Mr Levick is under considerable
financial pressure from his creditors and has made and continues to make promises
to repay creditors which he then repeatedly breaches,” Ball adds.

In the court papers, it is
alleged that Levick was placed “under pressure” by Friedland in
particular, a property investor who now lives in Miami. It’s claimed that
Friedland was the source of “threats” against Levick and his family
to the point that he hired bodyguards.

However, Friedland insists
this is far from the truth.

“I vehemently deny
that Martin was ever threatened. To the contrary, we remain on relatively good
terms despite what he has done,” he told News24 at a meeting this week.
Recent WhatsApp messages between Friedland and Levick also demonstrate the
cordial relationship between the two.

Fake swift payments and
banker’s ‘balls up’

The affidavits of other
creditors involved, demonstrate how long-standing personal relationships
between them and Levick turned sour over the past few months.

Christopher Brand, who has
known Levick for over 20 years as his ‘wealth manager’, claims Levick
misrepresented the value of his shares in Genesis Capital Partners. After Brand
negotiated a repayment plan with Levick, he believes Levick even falsified a
payment confirmation to him.

“I believe that the
Respondent’s confirmation of payment that he sent to me on 8 February 2019 was
falsified by the Respondent who merely copied, pasted and edited a previous
legitimate payment confirmation to create the impression, on which I relied,
that he had made payment to me.”

The payment was never
received.

Similarly, Chris Vosloo on
behalf of AMB Capital, alleges that Levick made a number of “false
representations to me in regard to payment”.

On September 17, Levick
attempted to explain a late payment with a message reading: “Guys, There
was a genuine balls up from my banker and trustees which I will explain but the
funds will reflects (sic) very shortly.”

The funds never reflected.

Levick denies ‘defrauding
creditors’

News24 attempted several
times to interview Martin Levick. He did answer calls and respond to messages, but
did not agree to an interview.

In a letter from his
lawyer, Marco Martini, he also declined an opportunity to give his version of
events.

“Your questions appear
to relate, directly or indirectly, to allegations made in the civil proceedings
and possibly to the Hawks investigation which you appear to have knowledge of.
Since the matters are sub judice, you will appreciate that in such
circumstances, our client has been advised not to make any statements or answer
any questions. You do recognise our client’s constitutional rights in this
regard. In view thereof, our client will not answer your questions nor afford
you the interview you seek,” wrote Martini.

“Notwithstanding the
aforegoing, our client denies that he has intentionally defrauded creditors as
alleged by your or otherwise,” the letter further stated.

Martini also issued a
veiled warning, that allegations contained in the sequestration application
were “defamatory” against Levick.

“Finally, as advised
telephonically, some of the applications before the Court contain defamatory
allegations (which you as an experienced reporter have no doubt read and
understood) and should you publish your article incorporating such defamatory
allegations, you will merely be aggravating the defamation and possibly making
yourself a party thereto. You are once again advised to proceed with
caution.”

Martini has confirmed that
his client has made a warning statement to the Hawks and has offered to
surrender himself to the authorities should they decide to prosecute him.

Genesis Capital distances
itself

Genesis Capital MD Stan
Melnick says immediately after they were alerted to the situation, the company
“acted swiftly to secure Mr Levick’s resignation as a director and CEO of
Genesis Capital (Pty) Ltd and thereafter his suspension as an employee”.

It then instituted a
disciplinary process against him which led to his resignation.

“Insofar as Genesis
Capital (Pty) Ltd and its subsidiaries are concerned, including Genesis Capital
UK, Mr. Levick has no current relationship with them other than a minority
shareholding in and indebtedness to Genesis Capital (Pty) Ltd. As regards to
Genesis Capital Partners (Pty) Limited, his relationship is limited to a
minority shareholding,” says Melnick.

He insists that the sequestration
applications are against Levick in his personal capacity and should not reflect
negatively on Genesis Capital’s corporate governance. Also, no clients’ money
was ever in jeopardy, he says.

“At no point in time
is Genesis Capital (Pty) Ltd or its subsidiaries custodians of clients’ money
and all client funds are paid directly to the relevant third-party product
providers. Genesis Capital (Pty) Ltd is a holding company for a number of
businesses that have for many years successfully acted as intermediaries in the
financial services industry.

“These businesses have
been built on a strong ethics and compliance foundation to protect the
interests of our clients who can be assured of our current and ongoing
commitment to the principles of good corporate governance. All of these
businesses are regulated by the FSCA and led by specialist teams who are
experts in their fields.”

Melnick says the company is
considering its legal options and will await the outcome of the sequestration
proceedings before taking a decision on any action against Levick.

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