Investors demand justice as alleged ‘Ponzi mastermind’ remains free

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Victims of the Classic Financial Services scam are asking why Cobus Geldenhuis, the alleged mastermind behind the Ponzi scheme, remains free despite indications that he continues to defraud innocent people.

Geldenhuis was debarred from selling financial services or offering advice in 2009 on the grounds of dishonesty. Despite this, he carried on with his business through Classic.

On 22 August 2022, Nico Retief filed a complaint with the FSCA, accusing Geldenhuis of soliciting investments from the public. Following an investigation, the FSCA released a report on 22 May 2023.

It was discovered during the investigation that Geldenhuis operated a Ponzi scheme, misusing client funds for personal gain.

The FSCA’s report showed that between January 2019 and May 2023, Classic received R617 346 972.53 from about 1 120 investors. Of this sum, more than R454 million was returned to investors. However, R129 962 413.37 remains unaccounted for.

During the investigation, Geldenhuis acknowledged that the purpose of the business was to steal money. He also admitted that he had not invested clients’ funds since the company’s inception in 2011, and the returns reported to clients were fictitious and fraudulent.

A few days after the release of the FSCA’s report, Classic was liquidated by order of the High Court in Pretoria. Since then, the personal estates of Geldenhuis, as well as that of his former wife, Jackie, and his son, Dewald, have been sequestrated.

Read: Classic Financial Services director and wife’s R66m gambling spree

Geldenhuis was also hit with an R143m fine and a 20-year debarment by the FSCA for providing unauthorised financial services and other violations in December last year.

Six months earlier, in July 2023, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) confirmed that a criminal case had been opened at the Kempton Park Police Station to investigate the dealings of Classic and Geldenhuis. At the time, Adele Janse van Vuuren, senior advocate at the NPA, told Moonstone that the Germiston Commercial Crimes Unit had been assigned to investigate the case.

Read: Criminal investigation into Classic Financial Services and its director gets under way

At the beginning of this month, Colonel Katlego Mogale, media spokesperson for the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks), told Moonstone that the matter was still under investigation.

“No arrests have been made yet. The matter was handed in to the NPA for decision and further instruction was given,” said Mogale.

In the meantime, the FSCA issued a warning in March stating that – despite all that had transpired – Geldenhuis was still rendering financial services to the public.

Read: Forensic audit traces Classic Financial Services’ missing millions

Ronald Seaborne (62), who lost nearly R800 000 in the Ponzi scheme, is baffled that Geldenhuis is still trading as if nothing happened.

“We don’t understand how he could do this evil to us and just go on with his life,” Seaborne says.

Seaborne, a former rigger at Columbus Stainless in Middelburg, suffered a traumatic head injury in 2013 that left him with a brain injury and led to his being declared unfit for work. Now a pensioner living in Albertinia, he says he heard about Classic from family and messaged Geldenhuis.

“He phoned me back and discussed the investment package with me. It sounded like a great deal,” Seaborne recalls.

He was told that interest would be calculated based on the stock price’s worth, and he could withdraw his funds anytime or take a fixed monthly withdrawal amount. Geldenhuis claimed the money would be invested in overseas stocks, including Tesla, Netflix, Amazon, Moderna, Teledyne Technologies, Apple, Physical Rhodium ETC, and Northam Platinum.

“He was always friendly and never too busy to talk. He made you feel like his number-one client. He came across as very trustworthy,” says Seaborne.

Seaborne chose to take R7 000 a month and, over time, he and his wife invested all their savings, inheritance, and a chunk of pension money – R928 790 in total.

“Over the months, we took out R137 000. We lost R791 790 plus all our so-called interest,” he says.

The first sign of trouble came when Seaborne’s sister sent him the FSCA’s warning in October 2022.

“We tried to take our money out, but to no avail,” says Seaborne.

They have since filed a case with the liquidators and opened a case with the police.

“The police are very positive, but the NPA investigations take long, and in the meantime, we need our money. We don’t get updates from the liquidators and attorneys, so we don’t always know what’s going on.”

Seaborne says his family is struggling financially.

“We still have a 13-year-old we must put through school. Bus fare, school fees, and uniforms cost a lot of money. My wife is diabetic, and we cannot afford the food she must eat. Medicine can only help so far. We have cut everything to the bone to try to survive.”

He fears they may have to sell their house to pay off debts.

“We thought we were set for retirement, but thanks to Cobus, we are living on the breadline.”

Celeste Barkhuizen (49) resigned from her teaching position in 2021 and relocated to Hartbeespoort Dam. Wanting to take some time to spend with her family before returning to teaching, she decided to invest R380 000 of her pension money in Classic.

“I’ve got three girls and five grandkids; my husband is older than I am. I wanted to spend some quality time with them.”

She invested with Classic based on the recommendation of a long-time family friend who had entrusted millions to Geldenhuis over 11 years, sometimes seeing returns as high as 14% a month.

“We knew other people who invested as well, my husband’s acquaintances. They all used him for many years.”

Barkhuizen says they opted not to draw any interest. By the end of 2022, her investment had grown by R100 000 according to the statement she received from Classic. Wanting to add an extra bedroom and bathroom to their home and redo their thatch roof, she put in a withdrawal request. She says that was when the excuses started.

“We kept on waiting and waiting. That is when we heard about the FSCA investigation and then we knew.”

Barkhuizen says, obviously, they couldn’t go through with the home renovations. Instead, she was forced to return to work sooner than expected, and her husband had to sell some belongings. However, she adds they were fortunate not to lose their home, unlike many other investors.

“It was hard, especially after Covid and then that happened, but we are still going. We are still fortunate; it did not cost us everything. There were people who lost their homes.”

She says she is not bitter or angry, “as long as other people don’t fall into the same trap”.

“Nobody put a gun against our heads. We as investors allowed it to happen. We were conned.”

Barkhuizen also submitted a claim with the liquidators and filed a case with the police. She believes that the likelihood of investors recovering their money is slim, but she remains hopeful that they may recover at least some of it.

“And if not, then, you know, he will get his day, even if it is not on Earth, his day will come. Just don’t invest with him ever … and people still invest with him which is mind-boggling. Keep your money close,” she says.

8 thoughts on “Investors demand justice as alleged ‘Ponzi mastermind’ remains free

  1. All my husband’s overtime money, all our savings, we have basically worked for Cobus, himself and family stole our money, we have grandkids in our care, when will justice be served?

  2. I also gave my pension and inheritance money to the ponzi criminal.
    Now, I have no idea how I will survive daily. It is a struggle. My life changed completely, i have to borrow money to pay medical bills. I cannot afford a medical aid any longer. I cannot afford comprehensive insurance any longer, or garden help, or a house cleaner once a week,
    No more holidays or visiting family in other areas. I sold all our camping gear, roof tent etc in order to pay for medical bills. My husband is 83 years old. And cobus and family surely has no conscience at all. I hope and trust they will get what they deserve.

  3. I cannot understand why people still believe in quick rich schemes. It it greed or plain stupidity?

    1. Everyone of his investors gave a great rapport about his conduct, his reliability his expertise about the stock market. He has been doing it for many years without any hiccup. Nothing negative was ever spoken about cobus. Everybody trusted him. He visted the investors on a regular basis.
      These criminal minds know how to play the game, it has nothing to do with get rich quick or greediness, it has everything to do with how the criminal plays the game. All thd investors were hardworking people trying to invest wisely. There was no reason to mistrust cobus. We believed every word he said.
      I personally know an investor who invested R9 million with him. She died in 2022 and her house was sold and that R1million also went into cobus pocket. He took that money even when he was already exposed, he still took the old ladies money. Now her children has a problem with the estate attorney. The estate cannot continue until the money from cobus is sorted out.
      He is a ruthless criminal with no conscience, he will rob his own mother.

  4. As an investment specialist, with many clients on pension, I am dumb struck when I read things, and deeply concerned when looking at how many of these ponzi schemes have been active in the last two years alone.

    People shouldn’t have to deal with criminals like this, and should have certainty that their money is safe, but when people talk of 14% growth a month that should signal serious alarm bells. 10% to 20% growth is what can be achieved per year in a good year.

    And people should always be aware that when something sounds to good to be true it always is. My sympathy goes out to everyone done in btvthis man its despicable and smears the entire industry as well as those of us who are legitimate Investment Specilslists.

  5. As dit nog Wilde Weste tye was, sou ek nie ‘n oog geknip het om sy kop van sy lyf af te blaas met die haelgeweer nie. Hoe die man kan lieg is finominaal. My aftreegelde alles gesteel. Maar hy moet sy dag kry en hulle gaan hom ‘n wyfie maak. Hy, sy vrou en al sy trawante moet vrek in die tronk. Sy een seun reeds dood maar dit was nie genoeg om hom te laat ophou nie

  6. I gave him my pension fund. At 53 I have to start all over.

  7. We also invested money with Cobus!

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