Johann Rupert suffers R300m jewellery theft – report

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South African businessman and Chairman of Remgro, Johann Rupert speaks at the University of Pretoria in Pretoria, South Africa on 15 October 2008. (Photo by Gallo Images/Foto24/Cornel van Heerden) - The Citizen

The Sunday Times has reported that a subsidiary company owned by South Africa’s second-richest man, Johann Rupert, was hit by jewellery thieves on Friday night.

An estimated R300 million worth of watches, diamond necklaces and earrings were snatched at a warehouse in Rivonia after the thieves allegedly overpowered and tied up the security guards before breaking into the vault.

The stolen luxury goods were reportedly headed for shops in Sandton under the distribution arm of the Rupert family’s luxury goods company Richemont, which owns Cartier and Montblanc, among other brands.

Specialist investigators are understood to be looking into why the CCTV cameras didn’t seem to be working and how the guards could have proven so ineffective.

In a recent extract from journalist Pieter du Toit’s book The Stellenbosch Mafia, Rupert says he believes South Africa has reached “a point of no return,” with the possibility of Deputy President David Mabuza becoming president “too close for comfort”.

He says he has lost faith in the ANC, according to the extract, which paints Rupert as angry about several things.

These include his belief that he has been unfairly cast as the face of “white monopoly capital”; his waning influence over the presidency (he says while he enjoyed close relationships with Mandela and Mbeki, and was also close to Ramaphosa in the 1990s, he has no contact with the president currently); what he describes as Sars trying to “sabotage him”; suspicions that his phone has been tapped; and the insults he endures in public.

These public insults are described in the extract as the reason his children live in the United Kingdom.

“When they are here [in SA] we don’t sleep. When they were here, they couldn’t go out in public without being insulted. It affected my family,” he said.

Rupert says he’s warned the government there would be economic consequences if Sars “ever again tries to sabotage” him.

“I have been by far the highest individual taxpayer in this country for the past 20 years. Our family companies are the biggest payers of dividends from outside into the country, more than what the rest of the JSE does combined,” he told Du Toit.

He says he believes his phone has been tapped due to the belief that he “controls the rand”, something he denies, while telling Du Toit he could do so if he wanted to.

“I have been protecting the currency, not weakening it. Investors from the US call me and ask whether they should short the rand, and I always say no. I don’t control the currency, but if I did decide to encourage people to short the rand, it would have an impact,” he said.

His personal problems aside, Rupert believes our economy may not be salvageable due to massive debt and that an “Arab Spring-type event” could take place.

“I think we’ll be at the IMF in a year’s time,” he told Du Toit, adding that he thinks there will be riots in the street if Ramaphosa doesn’t restructure the economy, which he added he no longer has faith he will be able to do.

“I’d like to have contact with Ramaphosa, but I’m not going to force myself on him,” he told Du Toit.

(Edited by Charles Cilliers. Additional reporting, Daniel Friedman) / The Citizen