J-Bay estate boss faces host of charges
Sold with promises of becoming the wine centre of the Eastern Cape, the businessman behind the much-anticipated Cob Creek Estate in Jeffreys Bay will appear in court today after his funds – as well as his grapes – dried up.
Greg Ferguson, 42, faces fraud and theft charges totalling almost R8-million, after he convinced a string of businessmen to invest in the residential golf estate, wine farm and restaurant, and then allegedly misappropriated the funds.
It is further alleged that he went behind his business partners’ backs to sell off some of Cob Creek’s shares. In addition, between March 2008 and February 2011, he allegedly stole more than R6-million from Cob Creek’s business account.
Ferguson, who handed himself over to the police in December, will appear in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court today.
Cob Creek Estate (Pty) Ltd was established in 2005 with the purpose of developing a portion of land along the Kabeljous River in Jeffreys Bay.
Initially, Ferguson and business partners Liziwe and Adelheid Peltenburg each held a 33.33% share in the business.
Operational funding was sourced by way of loans and bank overdrafts. A bank account was opened in the name of Cob Creek, with Ferguson listed as a signatory and the only person able to access the account via internet banking.
In 2009, to assist with the cash flow, a restaurant was opened on the property. Initially, the restaurant was profitable and Cob Creek harvested its grapes between February and March 2010.
Ferguson and the Peltenburgs also planned to develop part of the land for residential purposes and to sell plots to the public.
However, the residential development never got off the ground.
In December 2005, Ferguson approached Patrick Connellan and Michael White with his business plan. He said in exchange for a loan of R350 000 they would have first choice on an erf once the development was completed. In addition, the money was to be paid back within five years.
Connellan and White accordingly paid the money to Ferguson in February 2006.
“[Ferguson] deposited the cheque into his personal bank account and utilised the proceeds for his own purpose,” the charge sheet reads.
Over the next two years Connellan and White regularly asked Ferguson for progress reports on the development, but he kept fobbing them off.
After demanding copies of the financial statements, Ferguson allegedly ceased all contact with the men.
It later emerged that the Peltenburgs were unaware of the transaction.
Similarly, in August 2006, Nantes Pike advanced Ferguson a loan of R700 000, based on the same conditions. In 2009, Ferguson repaid Pike an amount of R300 000, while the remaining R400 000 was allegedly misappropriated.
Between March 2008 and February 2011, Ferguson allegedly transferred more than R6-million from Cob Creek’s account into his other business accounts or his own personal bank account.
Then, in April 2009, and unbeknown to his business partners, he sold 20% of Cob Creek’s shares to his uncle, Roger Ferguson.
Having convinced his uncle that he was now a shareholder, Ferguson allegedly persuaded him to loan the company R880 000.
Then, in February 2010, Ferguson became interested in buying an additional piece of farm land for R7-million.
According to the charge sheet, he met with Evert Hattingh to inform him that Standard Bank was willing to loan him R5.5-million on condition he come up with the remaining R1.5-million.
In exchange for the R1.5-million loan, he promised to make Hattingh a 74.9% shareholder.
“[Ferguson] never managed to come up with a bank guarantee for the [bank] loan and the agreement lapsed. Having utilised the R1.5-million for other purposes, he was not in a position to repay Hattingh,” the charge sheet reads.