Dodgy business practices exposed

Sale of a tourism business has unpleasant aftermath

17 June 2020 | Crime

Windhoek • Steffi Balzar

Following repeated accusations against the late businessman Werner Beddies, who was involved in a fatal accident in September last year, Windhoek Express’ sister publication Allgemeine Zeitung (AZ), took a closer look at allegations of how he is said to have misappropriated money.
Beddies was the owner of the tourism company Safari - An African Experience.
The company is said to have been frequently used as a service provider by major tour operators in Germany for bus tours in Namibia. Now more claims are surfacing that customers had been asked to advance payments for bookings without these payments being passed on to Namibian accommodation operators.
In September last year a tour guide submitted WhatsApp correspondence to the AZ, in which he had exchanged words with Beddies during a tour that he was hosting in Namibia. Included were confrontations with various accommodation operators after bookings remained unpaid, with the affected travel company in Switzerland that had to get involved in the long run. Guests sometimes had to pay admission fees themselves again, while the tour guide remained unpaid.
Other research shows that a large German tour operator had a similar experience, even though it had previously enjoyed a sound relationship with Beddies and his company.
However, as from May 2019, payment disputes became an issue and guests were repeatedly turned away from their reserved accommodations. Beddies would then correct this at the last minute by paying the outstanding amount.
The travel company ultimately terminated the business relationship, but was never reimbursed for advance payments it had already made to Safari - An African Experience. It had to engage with other Namibian operators and pay again.
Following his death, a lawyer advised that it would make no sense to make a claim against Beddies’ estate.
In the meantime, it has been established that these were not an isolated cases.

Further complaints
In another letter to the AZ, Beddies’ name also came up in connection with the business Namibia Reservations cc (NR), which was founded in 2002 by Mark Mücke.
Beddies was associated with that business since July 2018, but the business relationship is not entirely clear.
According to a letter from a South African customer, she had booked a trip via NR in August 2019 and paid all costs in advance. When asked, she was assured that everything was fine, that the money had been received. However, after that all emails and phone calls remained unanswered. The accommodation operators subsequently confirmed the bookings, but that they had not received payment.
Ultimately, the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) informed her that the company had been closed down.
However, that enquiry led to a meeting between the NTB and Mücke, in the presence of his lawyer. According to Mücke, the sale of his business relieved him of all financial obligations. While Mücke remained active as an employee, Beddies was responsible for management.
After Beddies’ death, his widow moved to Germany.
The South African tourist turned to the Namibian police for help and the case is now allegedly being investigated by Interpol.

Court documents
Further newspaper inquiries directed to Mücke, show that in July 2018 the company had indeed sold Namibia Reservations out of its parent company of the same name, to a still to be founded new company – The Africa Reservations Group (Pty) Ltd. This is evident from relevant court documents and agreements, some of which rely on verbal agreements.
According to these documents, Mücke was a minority shareholder in the new company, while Beddies, who wanted to combine his existing activities with those of NR, was responsible for the management of the company.
After the sale, Mücke wanted to turn his Close Corporation into a dormant entity. In the meantime, business operations moved from Otjiwarongo to Windhoek, but Beddies continued to run both units under their original names. According to a court document, Mücke was under the impression that the two entities fell under the holding group, which is part of a dispute between Mücke and an accommodation operator.
In a letter, Beddies had announced the merger of the two business units under the trade name Pamwe, but had also allegedly started to accept bookings and request advance payments under the company name Namibia Reservations. He claimed to be the sole owner.
In March 2019, Mücke noticed that Beddies had requested advance payments on behalf of NR and had used the money to keep his own business alive. At a first meeting between Mücke, Beddies and his wife, Beddies is said to have rejected Mücke's suggestion to speak to creditors.
No further meetings took place because Beddies was killed in a car accident shortly thereafter.

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