R6m sheep fraud probe

Middleton farmer accused of selling off 4 255 merinos in stock rental scheme

A Middleton farmer accused of stealing more than 4 000 sheep in a fraudulent stock rental scheme is being investigated by Cradock police. Investigating officer Captain Jan Greyling confirmed yesterday that he was probing four separate cases of stock theft, involving a total of 4 255 head of merino sheep worth R6.3-million, against the farmer, Izak Keevy.

“In each of the cases, the accused allegedly hired the sheep from the complainants via contracts of two to five years and when it was time to give the sheep back he had sold them,” Greyling said.

He said he had been investigating stock theft in Cradock since 1986 but had never come across a case of this kind before, where a commercial farmer was accused of stealing thousands of sheep through an established farming strategy.

Keevy appeared in a Somerset East court a month-and-a-half ago on charges of stock theft.

He was not asked to plead and the case was postponed for further investigation.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Keevy threatened to sue The Herald if it published the story.

“You have the facts wrong. The money is coming in for these guys,” he said.

“The case is closed for now. As soon as there are results, then we can talk.”

One of the complainants, Lukie Strydom, who farms in Middelburg and Grahamstown, said that, if done properly, stock hire contracts could benefit both parties.

The person renting out the stock has typically run out of grazing land and uses the surplus animals on his farm to generate cash that can be put into buying more land or used in some other way.

The person leasing the stock immediately gets to a critical mass of stock which would usually take years to establish and, at the same time, gets to keep any offspring, thereby developing his or her own herd.

The rider to such agreements is that the person leasing the stock must return the source herd with the same age ratios at the end of the contract period.

Strydom said he had entered into an agreement with Keevy to rent him 402 merinos at R25 a head per month, increasing by 10% a year, for five years.

“He [Keevy] was paying and whenever I bumped into him at an auction he would have all sorts of stories about how well it was going,” Strydom said.

“But at the end of our contract, I wanted my sheep back – and he said he didn’t have them anymore. “I pushed him [on this] and he told me he was sorry, he was tired of lying to everyone.”

“He admitted to me in a Whats- App that he owed me my 402 sheep.”

Strydom said much lesser incidents of stock theft would typically result in the culprits being imprisoned, “but it would appear that it is not happening as Mr Keevy is white”.

“If the accused had been black, he would have been in jail,” he claimed.

“It’s double standards. We should make an example of this guy but, instead, he’s still running around.”

Koort van den Heever, who farms between Cradock and Mortimer, said he had rented Keevy 770 sheep with the same terms three years ago.

“When the contract ended in July, I asked for my sheep back and he said he had sold them,” Van den Heever said.

As with Strydom, Keevy had been honouring his payments up until then, “but it seems as if he was stealing from Peter to pay Paul”, Van den Heever alleged.

“He told me I was the only one he was renting from, but then it came out that he was doing this to a lot of people. “My sheep alone are worth R1.2-million, so he has stolen millions of rand.”

“Then there is the money he got from the sale of his farm. “Yet he says he has got nothing left to pay us.”

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