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Levitt's lawyers going to the High Court

As the auction industry considers an Ombud, Rael Levitt’s lawyers plan to oppose the summons issued on their client in the High Court.

A summons was issued on Levitt’s residence on Friday, giving him 14 workings days, or until May 4 at 10am, to present himself to the National Consumer Commission (NCC), Commissioner Mamodupi Mohlala told Moneyweb.

The summons was initially issued on Levitt’s attorneys after they requested that all correspondence with their client be made through them regarding the Quoin Rock Estate auction matter, said Mohlala.

“They said all documentation must go to them and that is why all documents went to them and they accepted all documentation and were corresponding with us in relation to the documentation,” she said, adding that it was later requested that the NCC must serve on him personally as opposed to serving on his lawyers – it was a "strategic tactic”.

Mohlala said the NCC plans to raise this conduct with the Law Society.

When the NCC went to court last week to apply for Levitt’s arrest warrant, after his failure to appear before the commission, the Magistrate advised the body to serve it to Levitt in his personal capacity, which includes his residence.

Levitt’s lawyer Dale Smiedt, of Smiedt & Associates, told Moneyweb that the commission’s new summons will be “vigorously opposed” in the High Court.

The NCC has summoned Levitt to canvass whether or not his conduct on the day of the Quion Rock auction and in general amounts to fraud which would facilitate a referral in terms of section 73 of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) to the NPA for further prosecution.

NCC received a complaint from Wendy Appelbaum about Auction Alliance on January 31 2012 over the conduct of Levitt during the auction of Quoin Rock Estate, formerly owned by Dave King. The auction was held in Stellenbosch on December 10 2011.

Appelbaum alleged that Levitt used a ghost bidder whilst conducting the auction which is contrary to the provisions of section 45 of the CPA.

OMBUD SUGGESTED

It is this investigation that has led to the NCC proposing that an industry code be set up for auctioneers, banks and sheriffs which will prescribe minimum standards of qualification, licensing, ethics and professionalism. Depending on the funding model, says Tirhani Mabunda, chairman of the South African Institute of Auctioneers (SAIA), the industry code will either be enforced through an Ombud or the NCC.

Mabunda told Moneyweb that he is certain the Ombud option can come to fruition by having auctioneers and other stakeholders, such as banks help fund it.

In addition to the code, SAIA, in an attempt to regain the public’s trust in the industry, says Mabunda is collaborating with the “Services Seta to professionalise the auction industry by December 2014, such that only people with a minimum NQF Level 4 SAQA qualification and a licence or practice number renewable annually based on conduct and continuous professional development will be eligible to practice as auctioneers from January 2015 onwards”.

*Article source: Moneyweb, Author: Monique Vanek



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