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Georgiou claims I am biased. You be the judge

Property magnate demands apology and requests journalist’s removal from investigation.

I have been reporting on the failed Highveld Syndication schemes for several years.

Recently I undertook a comprehensive ‘flow of the money’ investigation to try and ascertain what happened to the R4.6 billion the 18 700 investors invested in the various syndications.

It is crucial to note that Nic Georgiou, a wealthy property owner and a key individual in the historic Highveld Syndications Orthotouch rescue scheme, accused me of bias and of not reporting objectively.

This column serves to inform readers of Georgiou’s accusation, and I encourage you to take his views into account when reading the articles that will emanate from this investigation in the coming weeks.

Within days of learning about my investigation, Georgiou raised his concerns about my impartiality in a legal letter sent to Paul Jenkins, Moneyweb’s chairman.

In this letter he accuses me of “waging an obsessive vendetta” and says my historic articles about him, Zephan Properties (owned by Georgiou and the underwriter of the rescue scheme) and Orthotouch (property management company and the rescue vehicle of the failed Highveld Syndication companies) have been “inaccurate and entirely unbalanced”.

The letter also demanded that I “not be involved in the research, preparation or writing of any future articles about our clients to be published by Moneyweb”.

The letter lists three reasons to justify these views.

My responses to the allegations feature in italics:

  1. I did not respond to a legal letter sent to me on May 17 asking me to remove “inaccuracies” in two articles.
  2. I always respond to legal letters, but I did not receive this letter as alleged. Nor was a copy of the letter sent to our legal representative Willem de Klerk, as Georgiou has done in the past. There was also no follow-up inquiry to confirm whether I  received it or not.

  3. I did not give Georgiou an opportunity to respond to criticism made by guests during live radio interviews. Background information: I conducted several live radio interviews on RSG Geldsake in June 2018 in which guests criticised Georgiou and Zephan. Georgiou complained to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) that I did not give him and Zephan an opportunity to respond. I offered an on-air apology and the complaint was settled before a BCCSA hearing. I then apologised to Georgiou on air.
  4. I concede that it was an oversight not to give Georgiou and Zephan an opportunity to respond to the criticism on air. This culminated in my apology. But it is also important to note that Georgiou, Zephan and Orthotouch have never agreed to be interviewed on the radio despite numerous invitations to do so over the past few years. As part of my settlement offer, I also offered Georgiou and Zephan the opportunity to respond to the criticism, but the invitation was declined.

  5. I am biased, lack independence and am a supporter of the Highveld Syndication Action Group (HSAG). Background information: A certain individual, Pine Pienaar, posted a WhatsApp message on chat groups for investors, which reads as follows: “In my Comrades example, I have left out one of our biggest names and that is Ryk van Niekerk. Ryk is our Team Manager, keeping us informed about our position in the race, providing information about the opponent’s tricks, and lots more. Thanks a lot, Ryk, you are a great help to keep us ‘poor’ investors up to date with the latest information. Pine“.

    In a subsequent post, Mr Pienaar retracted this post by stating: “I withdraw the above statement with regard to Ryk van Niekerk in full and with apologies to Ryk. Ryk is fully independend (sic) and not part of any of our groups or class action. Regards. Pine”.

    The legal letter says this serves to “fortify our client’s [Georgiou, Zephan and Orthotouch] conclusion that Mr van Niekerk is patently biased and lacks independence in his reportage of our clients”. It adds that “the withdrawal sent by Mr Pienaar in the second text message does not do anything to alter the impression created by the first text message, being that Mr van Niekerk is a supporter of the HSAG and the ongoing litigation against our clients, and that Mr van Niekerk clearly views our clients as his adversaries who are up to ‘tricks. This is clearly factual unless Mr Pienaar was lying in his message.”

    I am not a supporter or in any way aligned with the HSAG, apart from reporting on their activities. I have no idea why Pienaar posted the message. I am virtually the only remaining journalist still reporting on developments at Orthotouch, and that could have been the reason.

Georgiou also states that my reporting has contravened the Press Code as it is “biased and has been influenced by personal and non-professional considerations … The narrative put forward in Mr van Niekerk’s articles is that our clients are dishonest, fraudulent and lack integrity. These articles cannot be considered to constitute independent or professional reporting due to the patently close relationship Mr van Niekerk’s has with members of the HSAG; indeed, he is seen to be their ‘Team Leader'”. 

Georgiou then demands that I apologise for the breach of the Press Code and requests Jenkins to ensure that “in light of the reasonable perception of bias which our client has” that I “not be involved in the research, preparation or writing of any future articles about our clients to be published by Moneyweb. Our clients have no difficulty with other Moneyweb journalists engaging in (fair) reporting but believe it is clearly untenable in the circumstances for Mr van Niekerk to continue in this capacity.”

Jenkins has not requested that I suspend the investigation or that I withdraw from further reporting related to Georgiou, Zephan and Orthotouch. Moneyweb responded to the letter, rejecting the accusations as unfounded and malicious.

We at Moneyweb strive to report on all matters truthfully, accurately and fairly. If anyone believes that we fail in this task, they are welcome to make use of the complaints mechanism of the Press Council. Georgiou is yet to do so.

Read the full letter here.

Read: Part 1: The peculiar case of Picvest’s billions

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COMMENTS   16

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Why are people scared of journalistic bias. A journalist can never be objective. A writer will always have a position from which he/she writes. But they must be fair. And Ryk has given Georgiou plenty of opportunity to put his side of the story.

Don’t let the bullies bully you, Ryk. Investigate and report – wherever the evidence leads you. The bullies’ biggest fear is that the truth will out.

The new defense for those that do not like the truth exposed seems to be to attack the journalist! At least this journo hasn’t been killed like some others we know! If Donald Trump couldn’t stop the CNN journo, I very much doubt that Georgiou will stop this one!

@MActheknife wrote : ” If Donald Trump couldn’t stop the CNN journo, I very much doubt that Georgiou will stop this one!”

Please under no circumstance confuse that pathetic excuse of a news entity called CNN with the highly integral accurate reporting of Mr Van Niekerk

Ryk, false accusations all around. Please proceed with your reporting about this saga as 18 000+ lives had been devastated and have no ‘voice’. Be that voice and go for it.

The most important right that everyone has is to be heard – audi alteram partem. Why would anyone not use it?
“The narrative put forward in Mr van Niekerk’s articles is that our clients are dishonest, fraudulent and lack integrity.”
If that is true, Mr Georgiou, sue Mr Van Niekerk for defamation, state your side of the story openly, or keep quiet.

Thank you Ryk your reporting is faultless. Let the records prove this …..it is all out there for everybody to find.

This discussion is of interest to only the parties involved. To the rest of us, it’s one big YAWN…..

LOL… if it’s such a YAWN, why did you bother reading it?
Also, who is the US you speak of?
You speak on behalf of how many exactly?

Your compass is suffering from serious deviations…get it fixed

So stop yawning and go to sleep clearly you do not comprehend the essense of the matter Dont worry you will get the hang of it Some people take little longer than others but you will get there

Exactly – who is us!!! Obviously do not have a heart or soul for all the thousands of pensioners who have nothing ………….shame on you!!!! Good idea to find your moral compass.

It’s clear that you are obviously touching on sensitive areas Ryk?!
Keep on doing great work, your integrity shines through.

Well done Ryk. Glad you and Money Web stood for what you believe in and not let you be intimidated by the likes of Orthoutouch, Nic Georgiou and his people. We have been threatened the past 4 months by not getting our interest as per Court Order because we don’t want to sign our rights away. Now they even threaten the people who has to finalize estate matters by transferring the shares to the new owners that it will not be done without them signing their rights away. What a lot of hogwash. Good work Ryk.

Please keep up the good work Ryk and THANK YOU for all you are doing to investigate this matter – but PLEASE continue to do so

Attacking and blame shifting the mess to a journalist who is caring enough to get the truth out is laughable but it is simply the same old – he think he is very clever by blame shifting but hopefully the truth will get out and the people from who the assets were stolen are going to laugh last.

He and his team also attacked the class action lawyers and trying to make them look bad.

It is simply one of his tricks to play the justice system to his benefit. I mean how incredible is it that he is blackmailing his victims – if they don’t sign their rights away they will not get their 2% interest and since the capital can not be paid out either it seems the victims is handing him their assets on a tray by signing of their rights.

My views:

‘’Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry; when the boys came out to play, Georgie Porgie ran away’’
PS : Georgiou – don’t shoot the messenger – and my mother wants her money back?

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