Democratic Alliance (DA) Councillor Simon Lapping will appear in the Palm Ridge Magistrates on 1 February on charges of fraud. The case was postponed several times last year.
It’s a protracted case that stems from 2015 when Lapping signed an affidavit for Nico Niemand, in which he (Lapping) exposed FNB’s CEO Jacques Celliers for allegedly bribing him in 2008.
Lapping and Niemand had had run-ins with FNB in 2008 and 2009 respectively. The former’s credit card account and overdraft facility were in arrears of R400 while Niemand claims FNB’s mismanagement of his account led to the auctioning of his house when it should not have been the case.
Lapping, at the time a consumer activist, confronted FNB about its use of Non Authentic Early Debit Order (NAEDO) to “grab money” from clients without an authorised debit order. Celliers, then CEO of FNB Credit, offered him “R100,000 to go away”. “I was somewhat taken aback by this totally unexpected offer of “kindness’,” the now DA councillor wrote in the 2015 affidavit. As we have reported here extensively, Lapping did not confront FNB as an activist who wanted to expose a financial institution that was reaping off clients but for personal reasons. The bank wanted its money which he didn’t have and he was fed up when the institution’s debt collectors hounded him for it at every turn, he told Uncensored in a conversation two or so years ago.
Following the meeting, FNB wiped off his debt and added some extra cash some two years later. The bank paid him R3,500 to close the two accounts. They also arranged for R100,000 to be deposited in his bank account once his divorce was finalised. And indeed in 2010, when his divorce was finalised, he resumed discussions allegedly with Celliers and Dawn Smith from FNB’s legal department. A new bond of R155,000 was opened for him, “quite good for someone with no job, no income” Lapping writes in the affidavit. He had an outstanding amount of R125,000 on the bond into which he says he deposited R2,800 – “the only payment I ever made. A few days later, a mysterious amount of R150,000 was paid into my bond and therefore leaving me with R30,000 credit. I made enquiries with the bank where this money came from. It was confirmed that FNB card paid the money,” Lapping says. He was then paid the balance of R30,000 in cash.
FNB has maintained this transaction was in the normal course of business and there was nothing unlawful about it.
In 2009, Niemand had his woes with the financial institution and having had no joy with the answers given, embarked on an anti-FNB campaign, first through his website and later with moving billboards.
He claims Lapping saw his campaign and contacted him and told him about his encounter with FNB and that he could sign an affidavit attesting to events of the meeting between him and Celliers. The affidavit is here Simon Lapping Affidavit.
Once he had the affidavit, Niemand alleges that Lapping demanded R250,000 from him and he refused. “I told him I don’t do corruption,” he claims to have told Lapping.
Armed with the affidavit, Niemand laid a criminal case against Celliers and Lapping which was later dropped. He also intensified his anti-FNB campaign and also included Lapping’s role in the alleged crime.
By this time, Lapping had moved on in life and had entered politics as DA’s ward councillor and the matter was bound to damage his career. He fought back using lawyers and in 2017, he sent Niemand a letter demanding he desists from “the continuous publication of these falsehoods”. The Councillor claimed his actions with FNB were not unlawful.
The battle between the two men has persisted and on 5 April 2018, Lapping allegedly fraudulently signed a court’s notice served on Niemand to appear for a harassment case. Lapping was the complainant in the matter. The story, according to Niemand, is that when the notice was served, he was not at home to receive it and instead, Lapping signed it as the recipient. The return of service document says the house was abandoned – a claim Niemand refutes.
Having missed the court case because he was not aware of it, a warrant of arrest was issued. “The notice was served on 5 April 2018 and the court date was set for 30 April 2018. Captain Baloyi, who supposedly had the notice of service, never returned to my home despite having enough time before the court date,” Niemand says.
In December 2018, Niemand discovered there was a warrant of arrest out for him for contempt of court in the Lapping harassment case and laid a case against Lapping for fraud. “In the meantime, I then applied to have the warrant of arrest reversed on the basis that it was based on a fraudulent document, with Lapping’s signature and not mine as the recipient of the notice of service,” explains Niemand.
The case to reverse the warrant of arrest was postponed eight times until Niemand gave up on it, he claims.
In September 2019, police from the Bedfordview police station came to Niemand’s house to arrest him but he was able to show them all the documentation that proved the arrest was based on fraudulent documentation and they let him go, he says.
The fraud case against Lapping was set to be heard at the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court on 3rd April 2020. It was postponed to June due to covid-19 lockdown and then to November 20 and 23. It has now been postponed to December 2020.
Lapping did not respond to questions put to him by UnCensored. The DA’s Gauteng leader, Solly Msimang also, didn’t respond to questions put to him on the ward councillor.