The Rosen Conspiracy
“State Capture” and “Fake News” have enjoyed the headlines in recent times. This sorry tale describes how the South African Police Services and the media were part of the rot fourteen years ago.
Wrongdoers do three things to evade their culpability when exposed: they deny everything, admit nothing and strike back with counter allegations. These are sure signs of guilt.
The first two subterfuges take little skill. The last requires expertise, normally tinged with further wrongdoing. They cynically exploit the fact that in law you are innocent until proven guilty. They know that the law places the burden of proof on those who are wronged, not the wrongdoer.
And most importantly the skill of manipulating the media is not difficult. Journalists are always looking for newsworthy stories and are faced with deadline pressures and if well-known personalities are cited it sets the scene for the sensational story. But most importantly, wrongdoers know that the journalists never reveal their sources, even when the “fake news” is exposed. Rumour, innuendo and false stories flourish in this contrived toxic environment. The media defence is that they have a duty to follow up on all tip offs and “hear the other side”. I am amazed that even when their sources are proved to be false, they sometimes still stand by them. In this case Rose stood steadfastly by his deceitful source. Recent revelations about such a case with the Sunday Times “Rogue Unit” journalists losing their awards did not surprise me, because years before the story it happened to me too, in the same stable of newspapers.
As a direct result of exposing corporate fraud at Corpcapital in 2002 I found myself on the receiving end of all three counter strategies: “deny everything, admit nothing and strike back”.
By exposing the Corpcapital fraud, I was to find myself on the receiving end of all three counter strategies: deny everything, admit nothing and strike back”. The Corpcapital executives employed these tactics in every forum across a broad front.
The headlines of this saga are that from 2002 I was involved in a highly public battle with, Corpcapital where I was a founding shareholder, funder, and director. The issue was a fraud perpetrated by management designed to disguise a problematic bottom line and to pump up profits. It was not the first time that Jeff Liebesman, the CEO of Corpcapital had been involved in a scandal. His previous foray was with a public company called W&A, of which he was CEO, a well-publicised saga, as recorded in the website “The Corporate Codes”. A reading of the opening summary of the Corpcapital saga will serve readers as a useful prelude to the remarkable “counter strike” which I am about to describe.
I resigned as a non-executive director in 2002 and various investigations into Corpcapital took place, with the company eventually dismantling when it became clear that it had lost its credibility in the market.
The Corpcapital counter-attack took on a new dimension on Friday 25 November 2005 when I awoke to read in the leading Johannesburg daily newspaper, Business Day, under the pen of Rob Rose, that I was the subject of a murder investigation. Under the heading “Police probe businessman’s death plunge”, the article by Rob Rose said that what started as a suicide investigation into the death of a Johannesburg businessman, David Rosen, who had fallen to his death from the sixth floor of the upmarket Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton on 17 November 2005, was now a murder investigation, with me as the suspect.
The article sensationally raised the spectre of “gangland-style assassinations used to settle scores in the business community”. Little did the writer know that in fact it was indeed a “gangland-style” conspiracy to portray a suicide as a make-believe “assassination” by a hidden hand acting through a “source”.
Quoting Superintendent Chris Wilken, of the South African Police Services, Rose’s Business Day article said that Rosen had opened a case alleging threats against him shortly before he died. Wilken was vague about the specific intimidation charges but “understood these relate to a soured business deal”. Six paragraphs later we are told that a business relationship between Rosen and me had “soured dramatically in the last few months”. Connect the dots!
When Rose called me, I told him outright that there was absolutely no truth to his information but that the hand of Corpcapital was evident. This he did not report. Having covered the Corpcapital saga in some detail over many months, he should have been more thorough and on his guard.
Barely had I been able to deal with the hundreds of calls from concerned family and associates following the Business Day article on Friday the Saturday Star carried a front-page article under the heading “Former Els manager quizzed over death fall” (I had previously managed South Africa’s champion golfer, Ernie Els).
This article reinforced the smear by saying that I had already been questioned as a suspect by the police, which was factually not true. I was not asked as required by the Press Code of Conduct to comment on the allegations.
The reporter, Kashiefa Ajam quoted extensively from what was said to be a sworn statement by Rosen that had been leaked to her from the police docket.
Superintendent Wilken was even more speculative in the Saturday Star about my supposed motives for the “murder”, saying that a business deal (with Frangos) had gone sour.
Any proper investigation by journalists would have revealed immediately that David Rosen was in deep financial trouble and that the debt referred to, perhaps the smallest of his troubles, was not to me but to a company to which I had made a modest loan. They would also have discovered that I had no personal relationship with him, and that he was psychologically unstable. Later, Rosen’s wife Natalie, surprisingly not even contacted by the media, testified in an affidavit that her husband had never made any mention of intimidation by me.
But the shallow path followed by the journalists allowed them to be led by the nose to a false juicy story, which achieved the objectives of those behind the scenes in the dark, murky waters of deception.
At this stage the reader is owed a brief background on my business association with Rosen. A close friend of mine, Mark Robinson, often described as a gentle giant with multiple martial arts skills and a triple world champion to boot, had persuaded me to support the launch of an events company, focussing initially on mixed martial arts, which Rosen and his friend Bradley Bloch managed. Mark, Brad and I trained at the same gym, owned by Stan Schmidt, a former world champion exponent of karate, and a gentleman universally admired.
I agreed to provide some funding and my associate and partner, Spiro Noussis, duly made the investment. Sometime later Spiro and Mark advised me that Rosen was hopelessly in debt and some believed he had engaged in fraud. It was proposed that we join a group of other debtors to lay charges of fraud against Rosen.
What we did not know at the time was that Rosen was friends with two members of Corpcapital, an association that was to prove toxic for me.
But back to the media attack on me and my response.
The then editor of Business Day, Peter Bruce, haughtily defended the article that was published on 25 November 2005 and refused to name the source, saying it was “impeccable”. The term “impeccable” means faultless and in accordance with the highest standards. It was anything but. He did, however, undertake to publish a front-page personal apology to me and unmask the disinformation campaign if the reported “murder” was shown to be a suicide.
In contrast to Bruce, the then editor of the Saturday Star, Brendan Seery, immediately accepted that the article had defamed me. He said that the source for the article was an “intelligence operative” (who he would not name) known to senior journalist, Chiara Carter, who had then passed a poor copy of the Rosen “murder” docket to the writer, Kashiefa Ajam.
In an attempt to mitigate the harm caused to me Seery offered a “right of reply”, which appeared the following Saturday. This was a proper response by the editor.
It was a complex piece of communication given that a “murder investigation” was allegedly under way with me in the cross-hairs and that I was therefore acting under legal advice.
Recognising that such serious accusations create suspicion I told readers “I have taken the risk of writing this piece to defend my reputation. I also want to stimulate debate in the public domain about the dilemma that is faced by people such as myself who are falsely accused. When the media rush to print sensational rumours, they may not necessarily break the law. In fact, they almost without fail rely on sources that are not brave enough to stand up in the sunlight. A cocktail of allegations, shaken together with mysterious circumstance, can make a heady brew. Sometimes they are correct, but when they get it wrong it becomes a personal tragedy for innocent public people and their families.”
I asked readers to “put yourself in the shoes of a person wrongly linked to vile actions. You will see that it is almost impossible to defend yourself and your reputation”.
I gave a categorical assurance that neither I nor my friends had any direct or indirect involvement in Rosen’s death.
Predictably, an inquest hearing a year later in November 2006 confirmed unequivocally on the facts that Rosen had committed suicide. A suicide note written by Rosen had been found and filed in which he took responsibility for his own demise. It was clear from the witnesses and the other evidence presented that Rosen was alone when he threw himself from the building. Rosen’s business partner, Bradley Bloch, confirmed in an affidavit that Rosen had frequently spoken about suicide.
But the tragic personal circumstances that led to Rosen taking his own life are not the focus of this story.
The key question is: How did the long-planned suicide of this relatively unknown businessman evolve into a so-called murder allegation against me, with the full support of the police investigation team, their senior officers and the senior police spokesperson; not to mention the enthusiastic support of a gullible media?
An important clue lies in the fact that while the Rosen drama was unfolding, I wrested a High Court admission from Warren Goldblatt, the head of Associated Intelligence Network (AIN) [easily confused with the National Intelligence Agency (NIA)!] that his sleuthing company had, conducted secret investigations into my private affairs in 2003 as part of a dirty tricks campaign launched by Corpcapital.
AIN was originally formed by Warren Goldblatt and Gary Lazarus, the brother of Neil Lazarus, a director of Corpcapital. In court I presented the AIN register as evidence, provided to me by an AIN operative, showing the instruction by Neil Lazarus to investigate me and even giving a case number.
Goldblatt’s admission was to be one of the keys that unlocked the mystery surrounding the Rosen “murder” fiasco.
Adding meat to the bone was that in 2004 the Financial Mail reported that Corpcapital director Neil Lazerus had briefed AIN unlawfully to access the telephone records of eight journalists in 2001. It seems old habits die hard.
Proving yet again the ancient proverb that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, the circumstantial evidence points unerringly towards Corpcapital using AIN to cruelly exploit Rosen’s unhappy personal circumstances so that they could smear their mutual “enemy”, namely me.
I believe that Corpcapital representatives initially conspired with Rosen to lay charges of intimidation against me. It must have come as a shock to Corpcapital that Rosen committed suicide that very day. What were they to do? If their involvement came out they would be in serious trouble. Their scheming minds took time to figure it out and seem to have hatched the plan to work with the police on falsifying a murder allegation against me to deflect attention in case their involvement with Rosen was found out. This was the bread and butter business of AIN. If this explanation of the eight day delay between Rosen’s death and the first media tip-off is wrong, even more bizarre explanations must emerge one day.
Phase One of the revised plan was to smear me in the media. Phase Two was to put me through a rigged murder trial that would cause me to lose focus on the Corpcapital battle.
Consider the following:
- At the time of Rosen’s death, my court action against Corpcapital for the invasion of my privacy (they unlawfully accessed my bank accounts, cell phone accounts, and many other immoral actions) was due to be heard in May 2006.
- On the morning of his death, Rosen’s mobile phone records show that he was present at Melrose Arch for 40 minutes before reporting to the Sandton Police Station where he laid a contrived charge of intimidation against me. The head office of Corpcapital was at Melrose Arch. This hard evidence comes from a detailed investigation I commissioned by Paul O’Sullivan and running to over 50 pages. Should it become necessary to publish in the future I will do so on the website.
- Goldblatt of AIN was one of the first people to reach the scene immediately after Rosen’s death fall. Photographs taken by passers-by immediately after the accident showed a mobile phone and a diary lying next to the body. They were missing when the police arrived and have never been found. The diary must have contained details of his appointments, including those earlier in the day. It is not difficult to connect the dots here.
- Eight days after Rosen’s death, the Rosen “sworn statement” (alleging intimidation by me) was leaked to the media from the Sandton Police Station. We have uncovered the entire chain with names. Given that we now know about the capture of state resources it is noteworthy that Business Day was tipped off by an “impeccable” source (probably a police officer acting on the instructions of AIN, in turn acting on behalf of Corpcapital) and that the leak of the Rosen “statement” to the Saturday Star was via an “intelligence source” (later investigations by my team revealed that Chiara Carter had received the information from her partner, who was in the NIA, and had direct links to AIN, of whom Corpcapital was a client).
- The normally circumspect police spokesperson, Wilken, freely and unprofessionally speculated in the media about my possible motives for the “murder” of Rosen. Was he got at? It seems obvious that Wilken was under the influence of AIN, as were many other members of SAPS, as shown in court later during the invasion of privacy case.
- Rosen’s widow mysteriously received an insurance payment of R11 million within a month of his death, suggesting that the underwriters had been persuaded that their client was “murdered”. Insurance companies do not pay out on policies if there is a suicide involved. There are various speculations on this bizarre outcome.
- In 2006 a world-renowned handwriting expert, working on my brief, determined that the person who had handwritten the Rosen statement that was handed to the SAPS on 17 November 2005 was an operative employed by AIN and not Rosen. Rosen signed only the first page of statement. The signatures on the other pages were forged.
- A former AIN operative deposed to my investigation team that a large portion of AIN’s work revolved around discrediting subjects either financially or by endeavouring to have the subject criminally prosecuted. AIN had official police dockets at their offices that were completed and then handed to corrupt police offers to be “legitimised”. A subsequent review of the case file by a forensic investigator, confirmed that the SAPS did only a cursory investigation into Rosen’s death. During the year that I was the “prime suspect” for the “murder” of Rosen I was not questioned by the police, nor were any charges laid against me. The conspirators had clearly under-estimated the ability and willingness of their colleagues in the police services to keep up the charade with a thorough “murder investigation”, or perhaps they realised that my legal and investigative team was onto them.
- Not surprisingly, the investigation by senior SAPS officers into the leak of the manufactured “murder” docket from the Sandton Police Station to the Saturday Star did not lead to any charges being laid against their colleagues. This despite representations by my lawyers to the Minister of Police. The O’Sullivan report, which may end up on The Corporate Codes website, covers this matter in great detail.
On balance of probability, therefore, members of Corpcapital along with their proxies and Goldblatt were the directing hands for the malicious disinformation campaign against me conducted by AIN.
I did, however, have some redress from the media.
The Editor of Business Day, Peter Bruce, acknowledged under the heading “Suicide ruling lifts cloud off Nic Frangos” on 9 November 2006 that it was “clear that Frangos has been done a great injustice” and that “we were cynically led to believe the business link between Rosen and Frangos was significant in his death. Clearly, it wasn’t”. As promised, he reported on the inquest finding but I am still waiting for the apology!
The Saturday Star reported on the inquest verdict on 11 November 2006 under the heading “A suicide framed as murder”. The article quoted extensively from the forensic reported commissioned by me quoted my view that “the justice system has been manipulated as part of a campaign to smear me”.
To his credit, the Editor apologised unreservedly to me and my family “who were caused great distress by the original report that a murder docket has been opened after the death of Rosen …. this case has taught us that even the existence of an official police docket does not, in itself, mean that something is real”.
Both the Business Day and Saturday Star have recently removed from their websites their original articles of 26 and 26 November 2005 respectively in which I was “fingered”.
Following a definitive inquest ruling Business Day reporter Rob Rose wrote a telling piece for a sister publication, The Weekender, under the heading, “Who Framed Frangos?”. In the article Rose quoted extensively from a forensic report commissioned by me to “find the hidden hand behind the campaign against him”. For whatever reason, the article was not published. Rose concluded that “the subsequent framing of former Corpcapital director Nic Frangos for having a possible hand in his death is bizarre stuff indeed”.
I could not have put it better myself!
In this review of events fourteen years ago I have demonstrated elements of State Capture and Fake News.
Various commissions are looking into the former. The manipulation of our security establishment is at last getting attention.
Regarding the latter, journalists have an obvious responsibility to check the facts, report the truth and hear the other side. Sadly, my experience is not an isolated one. Over the past few years numerous journalists have been misled by sources peddling disinformation. Like myself, many innocent parties have suffered harm. Articles have been written and retracted and journalism awards withdrawn. The journalistic code of “protect your sources no matter what” stands on thin ice in this environment. Deceitful and manipulative sources must be exposed.
I have lived my life believing that people must take responsibility and accountability and that there should be consequences for wrong actions, especially where they cause great harm to others. Harmful actions without consequences are undermining the constitutional principles we all stand for.
I am grateful to an exceptional team who assisted me in laying bare this disgraceful episode. They included Webber Wentzel lawyers John Bellew, Dario Milo, Peter Grealey, and Trevor Versveld, communications experts Brian Gibson and Francois Baird, investigator Paul O’Sullivan, and a number of un-named former associates of Corpcapital and AIN who voluntarily came forward with hard documentary evidence.
My family and friends were unswerving in their support.