AUCTION Alliance won another legal victory yesterday when the high court in Cape Town postponed an application by the Estate Agency Affairs Board for a warrant for access to the company's documents.

The embattled company also won a legal battle against the National Consumer Commission this week when the same court found that summonses issued to it and its directors were inconsistent with the constitution and therefore invalid.

The problems of Auction Alliance and its former CEO Rael Levitt started with the R55m sale of a Cape winelands estate, Quoin Rock, to billionaire Wendy Appelbaum in December last year.

She subsequently alleged that Auction Alliance had used a ghost bidder, and that its record keeping and financial affairs could reveal violations of the National Consumer Act, the Estate Agency Affairs Board rules and the Financial Intelligence Centre Act.

The court ordered that the application for the warrant be heard together with Auction Alliance's application to challenge the constitutional validity of provisions in the Estate Agency Affairs Act and the Financial Intelligence Centre Act that allowed for search and seizure operations.

The court ruled that the board had not made out a case for the issuing of a warrant when it argued that a high court had the "inherent jurisdiction" to do so when faced with such a request.

Auction Alliance had refused the board's inspectors access to its premises after they arrived armed only with a certificate signed by the acting CEO of the board, authorising them to search the premises in terms of provisions of the two pieces of legislation.

Auction Alliance asked the court to prevent the "warrantless search" and also challenged the constitutional validity of the "impugned provisions" of the acts.

The board argued that the provisions of both acts allowed for "random compliance inspections without a warrant", which was only required for "targeted inspections".

After instituting a targeted investigation into the affairs of Auction Alliance, the board was entitled to search the company's premises, its lawyers argued.

The parties had agreed that a mirror image of the data on Auction Alliance's computer servers would be made for safekeeping pending the outcome of the court application.

The data will remain in safekeeping until the court hears Auction Alliance's application challenging the validity of the provisions of the legislation and a counter application for a warrant to access the data.

vissera@bdfm.co.za