A 1980s Joburg mining icon getting nailed for financial fraud

We refer to our subscribers, readers and listeners as the Biznews Community. Often, the spirit is reciprocated through contributions and tip-offs that add spice to our content offering. Like the email I received over the weekend relaying the troubles besetting Joe Berardo, one of Johannesburg’s richest and most colourful mining entrepreneurs of the 1970s and 1980s.

Madeira-born Berardo left school at 13 and five years later, in 1962, emigrated to SA. After a short career in fruit and veg, he migrated to mining eventually making a fortune re-engineering gold mines abandoned by profligate mining houses that then dominated the sector. After returning to Portugal in 1986, Berardo was celebrated as one of its richest entrepreneurs.

But that’s turned pear shaped. According to Portuguese TV, “Clever Dick” Berardo owes three of the country’s big banks almost a billion euros: loans secured by pledging his famed modern art collection three times over – each of them thinking it’s their security. That’s financial fraud. Pure and simple.

It gets worse. A judicial process to recoup their debt that’s now being followed by CGD, Novo Banco and BCP has revealed their “collateral” is worthless anyway because Berardo doesn’t legally own the art. The only property in his own name is a garage in Funchal, Madeira. In this case, South Africa’s loss clearly wasn’t exactly Portugal’s gain.