Vox Telecom Charges Dealstream With Theft in South Africa

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

Vox Telecom, the AltX-listed telecoms service provider, last week became the first company to announce it was laying charges of theft against failed brokerage Dealstream and its directors after Vox had to write off R60.8m in related losses.

Since Dealstream fell apart at the end of September 2008, the brokerage has been placed under provisional curatorship and was briefly placed under provisional liquidation. The liquidation order came to an end in the Pretoria High Court on Tuesday. Although Bernard Levenstein, the curator, said he would consider pressing criminal charges once his investigation was complete, only Vox has taken this step so far.

Many other companies, such as Rand Merchant Bank (RMB), Investec, the Industrial Development Corporation, Ernst & Young, Worldwide African Investments, the JSE and Control Instruments, have been harmed, either through reputational damage or the loss of money, following the collapse of Dealstream.

But laying criminal charges against Dealstream and its former CE, Russell Leigh, who has fled the country, is not likely to yield results for Vox. Mike von Holdt, chief financial officer of Vox, said last weekit looked as if Vox shares had been "fraudulently misappropriated" by Dealstream and that it was unlikely Vox would be able to recover any of the money owing to itself or to staff.

Investigations have also shown that Dealstream's liabilities outweigh its assets and, at most, there is R16m left in Dealstream's accounts. Nonetheless, Tony van Marken, executive chairman of Vox, believed the company had to take action against Dealstream in order to protect the rights of his company and its staff. Four of Vox's directors lost a significant portion of their holdings in the company while two directors had all of their holdings wiped out.

Business Day