Cobus Kellermann has instituted legal action against BizNews editor Alec Hogg to claim damages for defamation. Kellermann, who Hogg alleges is a ‘mastermind’ behind a massive fraudulent enterprise, is claiming R5 million for injury to “his name, reputation and standing”.
A sheriff of the Cape Town High Court served the summons on Hogg on Wednesday.
In a series of more than 20 articles, BizNews has claimed that Kellermann, together with his business partner David Cosgrove, had defrauded investors of billions of rands through what it called ‘the Belvedere Group’.
BizNews first carried the allegations on March 23 2015, when it ran a story under the headline: “Capetonian Kellermann accused as kingpin of R200bn Belvedere Ponzi”. The article stated that “Cobus Kellermann, a Stellenbosch University graduate now in his late 30s who runs Cape-based money manager Clarus Capital, has been fingered as a mastermind behind a massive global Ponzi scheme run out of Mauritius”.
This and subsequent articles stated that Kellermann and Cosgrove were behind a multi-billion dollar fraud through a company called Belvedere Management, and others linked to it. BizNews also carried a number of interviews with the editor of OffshoreAlert, David Marchant, who had been the first to make the allegations. In these articles Marchant called Kellermann a “fraudster”, Belvedere a “scam” and said that investors had been “fleeced”.
In September last year, however, the Guernsey Financial Services Commission announced that it had closed its investigation into the ‘Belvedere’ matter and that it would be taking no action against either Kellermann or Cosgrove. This was an effective acknowledgement that, despite a lengthy and thorough investigation, it had found no wrongdoing.
More recently, the CFA Institute in the US also ended its investigation into Kellermann without taking any action. The institute’s president and CEO, Paul Smith, told Moneyweb that “we have no evidence to pursue a case”.
Kellermann is now claiming that BizNews’ characterisation of him as someone who had perpetrated fraud and illegally appropriated funds from investors is both wrongful and defamatory. As a result, he argues in court papers, his personal and professional reputation is unlikely to ever be recovered.
“I have spoken with Mr Hogg,” Kellermann told Moneyweb. “He now believes the truth (judging by his response to me). He was made aware of the truth early in 2015. He chose not to report on it then. He still hasn’t reported on it. So, the only way for the truth to come out is to level the playing field, which would be in a South African court, and not by him, or anybody else for that matter, hiding in different jurisdictions and writing on their blogs.”
He added that he is considering legal action against “each and every media outlet that was told the truth”, but chose to report otherwise.
Hogg did not respond to a request from Moneyweb for comment.