Saturday, November 26, 2011

My experiences at Mellodramatik Murkathon South Africa. Part 4

 A multi-part story of deceit and corruption.

Repeated Fraud

During the course of the events described above, Jester attempted to obtain bank statements from one of the banks that the company transacted with, under false pretenses. Simply put, he attempted to use a signature card which was 5 years out of date to collect the statements from the bank. The bank called to verify the statement delivery, and alerted me to the actions of Jester. The statements were not handed over to him, and the matter reported the company’s attorneys for inclusion into report to the registrar of companies.
The fraud however was only just beginning; shortly after that episode I became aware of a fraudulent meeting of the shareholders of the company. The said meeting had never taken place, at the address and date and time mentioned on the resolution arising out of the fictitious meeting. The resolution was to remove me from office, suspend me and replace me with Jester, no surprises there. Fraud was once again alleged, along with gross dishonesty. A successful application was made to the Johannesburg high court, with costs to remove the resolution from the records of the company, and of the registrar of companies as well.
At this point I resolved to sue for damages as none of the allegations had been proved, and no investigation had ever been carried, only the empty accusations stood. So an action claiming 2 million Euros was started in the Johannesburg high court.
It came to my attention via Mincehere that he intended coming to South Africa again to ostensibly finish his kangaroo court exercise, and I resolved to use this to serve the summons on him for the civil claim for damages, and to inform him of the courts overturning of his fraudulent self-election to the board of directors. In true cowardly fashion, Mincehere strove to conceal his intentions until the very last moment regarding the real reason for his visit to South Africa, which was to once again attempt to suspend me, for the same reason as the year before, without ever having proved the previous claim. This time however he was fully under the impression that he had the power base, by virtue of his self-appointment to the board of MMSA, he was still blissfully unaware of the order granted by the Johannesburg high court removing him and his cronies Gamez and Jester from the board. 

In his arrogance or incompetence, he ordered me to collect him from his Johannesburg hotel so that he could then suspend me at the offices of Melodramatik. I duly collected him some two hours after the appointed time due to excessively heavy traffic that day, and transported him to the offices of MMSA in Booysens Reserve. His opening statement was to produce another letter of suspension almost identical to the one produced the year prior. I then questioned him as to his jurisdiction empowering him to deliver the suspension to me an employee and director of MMSA. He haughtily informed me that I was no longer a director of MMSA, and he was now the new MD of MMSA. In the same breath he offered to negotiate a separation package, offering six months’ salary and all of my accumulated commissions, which according to him, had not yet been credited to me. I questioned him regarding his authority to negotiate on behalf of the parent company, and he looked at me and lied that he had negotiating authority. So to test him I named a figure I was willing to accept. He replied the figure was totally unacceptable, and in that case I was once again suspended and I must leave the premises immediately and hand over my keys and computers and remote to Jester, his accomplice at this point. At that point I think, that I laughed at him, and handed him correspondence detailing that he was in fact not a director of MMSA, not the MD of MMSA, and I called the police and had him and Jester escorted off the premises. 

The following day, after a visit to a customer, I returned to the office to be confronted by Mincehere, Jester, a lawyer, and a hired gunman, who informed me that his function (while opening his jacket so I could see the holstered weapon) was to remove me from the premises’ by force if necessary. I invited the gunman to go ahead and remove me, he declined, and so I once again called the police reaction unit, gave the Captain commanding the unit a copy of the court order, and once again removed Mincehere from the premises. This time I provided the parent company in the USA with a comprehensive report detailing Mincehere’s actions in South Africa. Other than a confirmation receipt I was given no other indication that the matter was receiving any attention.
On Mincehere’s departure, the lawyer representing him, the hired gunman and Jester handed over an undated notification of a shareholders meeting to be held a month from then, all attempts at a suspension had now ceased. The notifications of the meeting were invalid, but at that point I had already decided to terminate my relationship with Melodramatik, I decided to attempt to negotiate an exit package with the legal representative who was channeling all of the communication between me and the company. Leigh Saunders, the lawyer then proceeded to play for time, in attempt to hold the meeting and remove me from office.  I had consulted with our company lawyer, who also represented me in this matter, and I devised a strategic exit from the company. 

The day before the “shareholders meeting” was due to take place, I received by fax, another apparently fraudulent document. This was to be the piece de resistance of the series of fraudulent documents in this matter. It was a voting proxy, issued by Mincehere to himself, granting himself voting proxy in the meeting of the shareholders of MMSA. In this document he claimed to not only be a shareholder of Melodramatik Germany, but of MMSA as well. To make the fraud complete, he had already voted on all three items on the agenda to remove me from office, and install himself and his accomplices in my place. The meeting never took place. The paper trail was merely to withstand scrutiny by the registrar of companies, on receiving this document I resolved to execute my exit strategy. I left the next day, without notice, and without any successor to hand over to, and this fact caused me some consternation, but I accepted that I had done as much as I could under the circumstances. Notification of the only board members final resolution was served on the lawyers representing Mincehere by telefax, and in true Mincehere style, nothing happened for over a week. This effectively absolved me of any claims by the company against me for any matters relating to my departure.
Interestingly the time Jester took up office and began once again to utilize fraudulent means to achieve his aims and objectives, the first was to use my old e-mail address to send mail to recipients unknown, to give the impression that I was still in office. The second was to telephone Nedbank card division and to attempt to make changes on credit card accounts belonging to me. The third was to call MTN mobile networks and to attempt to change the bank account debit order details on my cell phone account.
It appears that to Jester, the end justifies the means no matter what. However when it comes to keeping deadlines, and scrutinizing documents properly, he falls woefully short, and his lack of attention to detail has cost the company the use of a delivery vehicle which he failed to agree to a transfer to the company in the time allotted for this.
His lack of administrative capability extends to failing to pay out the leave pay held by the company on my account, this transaction is now some week and a half in arrears, and will be reported to the department of labor at the earliest opportunity.

Further misrepresentations

It appears that Jester also misrepresented himself to several banks, issuing what can only be described as illegitimate instructions, without any mandate from the company shareholders. Included in the raft of doubtful mandated instructions was a repeated refusal to pay for services and expenses incurred by the company, on a credit card issued to me. It has come to light some two years later that, the instructions he issued were without mandate and the bank was given a mandate two months after the issues of the instructions from Jester which prevented the settlement of due expenses.
Among the due expenses are included some ZAR300,000 in leave pay, and ZAR 330,000 in commissions. Jester was also party to the launching of a lawsuit to the value of ZAR1,500,000 as counterclaim to the Euro 2,000,000 for defamation, against Melodramatik and Mincehere. The lodging of the court action by Jester also had the effect of freezing ZAR 660,000 in a pension fund due to me.
Ironically, no one from Melodramatik has ever considered how ludicrous it was to try to take action against an employee, because in their own words: “an estimate did not match a projection” when it came to an annual budget.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My experiences at Mellodramatik Murkathon South Africa. Part 3

 A multi-part story of deceit and corruption.

The Parent Company

Mureno  Skoche

Parent company involvement in MMSA was minimal, there was a strong language bond between Jester and his peers in Europe, and no one ever suspected that the local company was on the brink of collapse, due to reduced sales and loss of customer confidence due to apathy on the part of Jester, who had not visited certain key customers for anything up to 10 years prior to his retirement. This became obvious when on tour of customers; he was treated in some cases with such surprise by them. He appeared to have spent his time, either at the office, or taking extended lunch breaks to be with his ill partner.
It also became clear from comments passed by the CEO of the parent company, that they were aware of his limitations, if not his personal circumstances with regard to his partner. The managing director of the parent company was an abrasive, arrogant individual that engendered conflict at all levels of the organization. Consequently he was kept in the dark by his subordinates as much as possible with the aim of limiting conflict, and avoiding becoming the target of his violent temper. He appeared to be person desperately clinging to his position, with no real grasp of the culture of the company, and or the essence of the company’s business, which was selling machines, as opposed to launch pad for his strident irrational outbursts. He would neither tolerate discussion or what he perceived to be dissent of any kind, and this almost resulted in a physical confrontation between us in 2004. Something I was not averse to, but refrained because it happened in Europe, and I had no desire to run afoul of the German authorities. Thankfully that individuals tenure was remarkably short, and I did not spend any more time in Germany at the factory, than was absolutely necessary, and time I did spend, I avoided contact with him, preferring to deal with his subordinates and promoting the business in that manner.

Kalharry Bothdown

His successor as a result of some impromptu shuffling by the parent company in the USA, had been his boss before, but was given additional responsibilities with his abrupt departure, was an individual thoroughly schooled and integrated in the company.  Kalharry, from day one, had a vision and a mission for the company which he had no trouble getting the majority of the staff to support and promote. I thoroughly enjoyed working with him, and shared his vision for the company, to the extent that I compiled an extensive business plan to grow MMSA and to take advantage of the prevailing BEE legislation. Regrettably Kalharry had a serious falling out with the US management and left suddenly as well some time later, so the growth plan for MMSA was never implemented.

Gean Mincehere

After Kalharry’s abrupt departure, the replacement was Gean Mincehere, with no experience in the plastics industry, no business qualifications, a slightly dubious past, which appeared to be linked to what many considered to be his boyfriend, although I have never seen any reason to support these views, in the M&A sphere, linked to a consulting company in Switzerland. My initial assessment of Mincehere was weak, but dangerous due to his lack of formal qualifications, and he appeared to have spent the last few years prior to his joining Melodramatik, languishing in the shadow of his alleged boyfriend.
That taken into account, and a large deal in the offing, I contacted Mincehere, and asked him to come to South Africa, to see our largest customer in Africa, with me, as that customer was well aware of the developments in Melodramatik, and they required some kind of assurance that their principal machinery supplier was able to support them into the future. The reply I received was a lengthy excuse as to why his schedule did not permit that at that time. My reply was to issue a direct order for him to get on the next available flight if he was maintain any possibility of winning that order that year. All due credit, he did take instructions quite well, and a few days later, he was on his way to South Africa.  Oddly, his first point of call was not MMSA as anyone may have reasonably expected, instead he was entertained by two of our biggest competitors, Mixico (then agents for Arbtech, and through a subsidiary, for a Chinese Injection machine brand) and ETT, the company formed by the breakaway technicians of MMSA. His actions were brought to my attention by a local magazine writer who saw him and his accomplices at a well-known local river resort, on the weekend prior to his visit to MMSA, which he visited only on the Tuesday, the Monday having been taken up with business meetings at competitors of MMSA. When I confronted him with these facts, he did not bother denying them. Possibly my demeanor may have indicated an intolerance to any denial.
On that highly suspicious and untrusting note, we travelled to Cape Town to see the customer where the deal had to be closed. Conditions around the sale were discussed, Mincehere made some vacuous comments to the customer, and I walked away with the order. Mission accomplished, or so I thought. During the course of speaking to various line managers at the customer, Mincehere would take these customers aside when he fondly believed I was unaware of actions, and interrogate them regarding my presence and performance at the customer. After one such aside with one of the line managers, when I sarcastically enquired if he had heard what he wanted to hear, he had the unmitigated effrontery to inform me that that particular line manger had just saved my job. I realized right there; that not only was Mincehere incompetent, he was dangerous, and I commenced documenting every action and communication between us. I ceased to discuss anything telephonically, due to his penchant for inveterate lying after the fact, as I had observed with his visit to the competitors of MMSA, so I started to build a scenario where I eventually trapped him into giving me a written admission of the real reason for his dealings with our competitors. His intention was to close down MMSA and to award the service and sales to an outside company, so that the parent company would not have to carry any responsibility for the local company. This was not an unreasonable strategy, and under normal circumstances it should have been communicate to the company’s employees, the legal aspects of the closure dealt with, and business would have continued under the control of the preferred company. Instead Mincehere chose to do nothing to close the company down, but rather than incur the expense of closure, he instead chose to accuse me of dishonesty, and attempted to suspend me some time later.
The incompetence accompanying the attempted suspension saw the suspension fall flat, and the audit which was carried out immediately after that, cleared me of any wrong doing. No further mention at the time was made of the suspension; Mincehere seemed to think that if he did not bring up the subject again, then it would resolve itself. This was not the case, seeing as we had received a clean audit, I resolved to re-examine the package I was receiving from the company, as I t had not been reviewed for five years. When I had raised this with Mincehere, he had responded by being evasive and mumbling something about EBIT performance of the company, so I convened a meeting of the remuneration committee, and tabled a proposal to address the parent company’s negligence and to adjust my package accordingly. The documentation pertaining to the actions of the remuneration committee was forwarded to Mincehere for information, and comment.  No reaction was ever received, to date, it is not known whether he ever read it, or for that matter understood it.
Communication with Mincehere was always difficult, as he has a disconcerting habit of when he responds to communication, his replies are never connected to the original communication, so, one would write to him about sales for example, and he would reply regarding marketing, or administration. He would initiate communication about a specific issue, receive replies which addressed all of the points he had raised, and reply about something completely divorced from the initial subject. His communications quickly took on the aspect of case building, but due to their disjointed nature, he was never able to sustain communication for long enough to actually build a case of failure to comply with instructions, or insubordination, due to his replies never being in sequence with the replies to his original points. Perhaps the finer details of communication were lost in translation.

Supporting competitors

Since February of 2007, Mincehere was covertly providing support and material assistance to our competitors. We came upon information in the market place that pointed to the fact that our competitors were being supplied with parts directly from the factory. We however had no documentary proof that this was taking place, and I could confront Mincehere with hearsay information and tell him to stop. In that regard, we got a lucky break, one of our Business associates of long standing received a set of documents in error, and we were able to obtain copies from them which proved beyond any doubt, that the factory was indeed supplying our competitors with means to damage the business of MMSA. So when Mincehere once again travelled to South Africa, I arranged a surprise meeting at my attorneys to resolve the issue and to negotiate the terms of a separation package as clearly the relationship had deteriorated to the extent that Mincehere was prepared to damage the brand in order to prove a personal point. Because at the same meeting he made the statement that he would not negotiate, and that him and a colleague would “take over the company” and resolve the matter that way. The meeting however was aborted when Mincehere left in a huff and waited for a taxicab in the reception area of the lawyer’s office.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My experiences at Mellodramatik Murkathon South Africa. Part 2

A multi-part story of deceit and corruption.

More discoveries

Taccountovic and Da Silva

Shortly after Jester’s departure, his longtime companion Ludmilla, died as a result of advanced cancer, a fact Jester had concealed from everyone, as I believe that he felt if it was known that his urgent need to retire was driven by Ludmilla’s impending death, as she had been advised by her doctors that there was no possibility of survival. Almost simultaneous with Jester’s departure, I was advised by the then accountant, Mr. Taccountovic, that he was retiring to Pietermaritzburg, and would not be able to continue as the company accountant. In order to maintain some kind of continuity, another competent accountant was sought, and a Mr. Da Silva, took over from Taccountovic, who relocated with haste to Pietermaritzburg, leaving improperly documented books for the new accountant to reconcile and take ownership of.  According to Taccountovic, he had left perfect records, and perfect reports, however at the next month end it became apparent that he had used mostly a manual system for keeping the financial records of the company, the files were with him, and when asked for the files to be handed over, he demanded a fee of R10,000.00 for some excel files that after examination were not worth R10.00, any high schoolboy or girl, could with a few hours effort have produced them from scratch.
Jester very kindly offered to assist in the compilation of the month end reports, for a consultants fee, and it here that we learnt that the month end reports had been more or less fictitious for a number of years, as Jester had no understanding of the reporting structure, and how the various aspects of the financial reports integrated with each other. I resolved to dispense with Jester’s and Simonvic’s input and relied on Da Silva being able to satisfactorily liaise with Germany, and to for the first time, produce financial reports that were accurate and reliable, but most important of all, were not the result of data manipulation, to satisfy formulas that were not understood by the previous accountant. Da Silva, was a thoroughly professional, knowledgeable and computer literate person who first suggested that perhaps the old Ohio, command prompt accounting software which had remained without update or maintenance since 1988, should either be upgraded or replaced. This was investigated and options and prices obtained both from Ohio software, and from Softline Pastel, with Pastel being by far the most cost effective package, a windows update for Ohio, would have cost R80,000.00 for the software, and in the region of R50,00.00 for the data migration and integration. All of which would have been billed by Ohio at premium rates.

The Clowns

When this development became known in the company, there was extremely strong resistance to this change by the Clowns, who were adamant that they would not use the new system, and proceeded to willfully sabotage the process, to ensure that it failed to vindicate their opinions regarding the new system. To overcome the resistance, and outside consultant was contracted to provide training and insight into the functionality of the system, so that the Clowns could realize the value of the new software and become more familiar with it, and in so doing come to accept it as a fully functional useful tool in their daily work lives.
The sabotage continued, but with a new twist, Losly Clown started to short invoice parts, and in so doing cost the company some losses on spare parts sales. This was brought to his attention, and he was notified that he was to be disciplined for actions. The amounts involved would, had he been found guilty at an enquiry, have been recovered from him, so before the enquiry could proceed, Losly Clown abandoned the company, without notice, no doubt to escape the consequences of his actions. I quickly established that Lois Clown had gone to work for a competitor on the day following his desertion from the company, this was the company SST, started by the two technicians who had left the company, due to their involvement in theft of parts and hours. The rapidity of his engagement at that time suggested that he had made prearrangements to join the competitor in any event, and his incompetent behavior was some kind of vindictive behavior prior to his departure.
Tweela Clown, continued to be more openly obstructive, to the degree that she was informed of a pending hearing for insubordination, which she indicated, she was more than ready for, and that she would be turning the tables so to speak on me at this hearing. But during the course of preparing for the hearing, it was determined that Tweela was past the age of mandatory retirement, and had continued in employment only due to this fact not being made known to the company. She was served with a notification of retirement, and given thirty days pay, and sent on retirement. She however attempted to challenge her retirement at the CCMA, without any success. As her retirement was completely within the framework laid down by the labor laws of South Africa.
She did after the rejection of the motion by the CCMA; compose a letter to the company’s head office alleging financial irregularities and theft on my part. Subsequent audits proved these claims to be nothing other than attempts to tarnish my reputation and discredit me to the organization. I believe that Tweela managed to create a perception that I may have been an unsuitable and overly aggressive person, to manage the company, with our parent company, to whom she had aired her alleged grievances.

Tweela’s departure, however forced, offered an opportunity to train a debtors and creditors clerk from within the company, who was willing and able to learn the new Pastel system and add value to the company. This person was Beth Unfoggy who previously had been bullied by Tweela into doing most of Tweela’s work, while receiving none of the credit for it. Beth was offered the opportunity to take over Tweela’s old job, and she was quick to demonstrate after acceptance that she a person with a significantly higher aptitude for the bookkeeping tasks, than Tweela ever was.
Losly Clowns departure, likewise offered an opportunity, to take control of the stores, and to implement a logical system of stock control, using Pastel as the driver for total transparency and accountability of the maintenance of stock, and of the assurance of profit margins on spare parts sales, and service invoicing, two areas which had been covertly sabotaged by the Clowns. The person selected from within the company to do this was Gandalf Woodsman. Gandalf had previously experienced some difficulties with his duties as field service technician, but he had a reasonable knowledge of the products and of the parts which went into the products as spares. He was provided with extensive training to detect and bring to the attention of management any errors that arose as a result of Losly's negligent and malicious actions.