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WESTERN Cape Judge President John Hlophe has laid down the law to ex-Fidentia boss Arthur Brown, warning that his R1 million bail would be forfeited if he was not ready to go to trial in October.
The case has been on the court roll for two years now but the trial has yet to begin.
It was due to start yesterday but was again postponed, this time to October 10.
State advocate Jannie van Vuuren accused Brown of trying to delay the trial by repeatedly changing lawyers.
Until recently Brown had legal aid, which brought advocate Braganza Pretorius on board to represent him.
The court heard that Brown, however, had chosen to terminate his agreement with Legal Aid in April.
He was now being represented by lawyer June Marks, who requested that the trial be put on hold for three months to allow her to prepare.
But an exasperated Van Vuuren claimed Brown had taken on Marks as his lawyer because he knew she would not be ready for trial and that, as a result, the matter would not proceed.
“He knows the system; he’s playing the system,” Van Vuuren said.
Judge Hlophe granted the request for a postponement but not without a stern warning to Brown.
“If on the 10th (of October) you have no lawyer, this trial will go ahead with or without a legal representative,” he said.
Judge Hlophe said he had been sitting in the pre-trial meetings for Brown’s case for two years, and warned him that he could not “keep on playing this game”.
He then added another condition to Brown’s bail, saying that if he was not ready for trial on October 10, his bail – a hefty R1m – would be forfeited.
Brown faces nine criminal charges: four counts of fraud, one of money laundering and two each of corruption and theft.
Marks also accused the State of withholding “masses” of documentation – including a hard drive, statements, cheque stubs and a document from the Financial Services Board – which she needed to prepare for trial.
“I’m trying to get the necessary documents so I don’t have to call 80 witnesses to the stand to get them,” she said.
But Van Vuuren maintained he had handed all the documents and information relating to the case to the defence.
If new information or witnesses cropped up, they would submit that too.
In addition, Marks had made allegations that the State was “harassing and intimidating” them, which was not the case.
“There is no information or documents relating to this case that the accused has not been furnished with,” said Van Vuuren.
As part of the State’s case, he expected to call some 30 witnesses, estimating that the trial would run for at least six months.