Question posted in the General Law category relating to Western Cape
Good morning. Let me try and explain the situation.
I bought 4 GPU mines to mine cryptocurrencies in 2018. I then found a company to manage these on my behalf. With the price drops, it wasn't profitable any longer to have them turned on and the company turned them off waiting until the situation improves. Lately the prices are booming but the person with my mines is avoiding me. His original email address is no longer functional. He doesn't reply to voice calls. Sometimes he replies to whatsapp messages. This has been going on since September 2020.
I requested them to return my equipment without success. I also went to the police to lay a charge of theft but they wouldn't assist and referred me to the small claims court. I searched online and saw that the small claims court is only handling cases up to R20 000. The equipment was bought for around R200 000. Can you assist me? I am not sure how to proceed.
Thanks in advance,
Hennie du Toi
Answer to the Question
Hi there Hennie and thank you for your question,
I am a practicing attorney based in South Africa and I will assist you with your question. Please feel free to ask as many follow-up questions in order to clarify your question. If you have a new question, you must please open a new thread.
The SAPS won't assist you because it is not a true case of theft. It is unfortunately a civil dispute.
Given the value of the machines is approx R200k, you will fall into the Magistrates Court jurisdiction. You would need to sue the company (you'd need the companies name, etc) for the cancellation of this management contract and the return of the mines. (There must be some sort of management contract/agreement in terms whereof the company operates your mines and pays you the mined cryptocurrency - this is what you would need to cancel)
This would be done by way of a summons. If the company doesn't defend the case, then you could apply for a default judgment. If the company does defend the case, you can apply for summary judgment.
Either way, once you have a judgment for the return of the mines, the sheriff can get involved and actually go collect the mines from this company. The sheriff would then return the mines to you.
If the mines no longer exist (maybe lost, or destroyed, who knows) then you could ask the court for a money judgment against the company for the R200k. The sheriff would then be able to go and attach other company assets and auction them off so that you can get paid.
The one issue is that the Magistrates Court with jurisdiction is probably in the district where the company operates or is registered. That might not be in the same city that you live! So you might need to travel to "that" Magistrates Court for the case.
Given that your claim is for an amount of R200k, I really do think that you should consider hiring a lawyer to assist with drafting the summons and getting the case argued before the Magistrate. It will do you well. I can't refer you to a specific lawyer, but I can direct you to https://www.southafricanlawyer.co.za, where you can find a list of qualified lawyers in your area who will be able to assist you further!
I must also point out that perhaps you should send the company a letter of demand canceling the management agreement and demanding the return of the mines to you, with a threat that you will sue the company if they don't respond within 5 days. This might kick the company's butt a little and get some sort of response.
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Information provided by client
So who will the summons be sent to in this case? Unfortunately I don't have the ID numbers of any of the persons. Is that a problem?
I suspect the mines were either sold or are currently being used to mine without paying me.
Should I hire a lawyer to assist me with the case, estimated costs will be involved as it would need to make financial sense.
Lastly, I only have the contact numbers of the 3 physical parties I dealt with and one's address which I don't think is current.
Thanks & Regards,
Hennie du Toit
Answer to the Question
I don't think that you have any claim against the directors of the company personally. I think that your claim lies against the company. So, for this reason, you would need to sue the company.
Ignore the fact that the company is being re-registered, it is most certainly a technical de-registration due to a failure to pay the annual charges rather than a liquidation. Issue the summons against the company.
Your summons will also then need to include a damages claim for the lost revenue.
Should I hire a lawyer to assist me with the case, estimated costs will be involved as it would need to make financial sense. --> It is so hard to give an estimate because you don't know what sort of defence the company will put up. It is almost impossible to say. You can discuss this with a lawyer once you've found somebody to assist.
Lastly, I only have the contact numbers of the 3 physical parties I dealt with and one's address which I don't think is current. --> That might work, because the summons could be served at the registered address of the company, and the company doesn't defend the claim, and then you could get a default judgment.