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A former financial manager of the Dannhauser municipality wants to sue the ministers of justice and safety and se- curity and the national director of public prosecutions for R14 250 000 for his wrongful arrest and prosecution on charges of fraud and corruption.
Ashwin Gopaul Nair, who had occupied the position in the northern KwaZulu-Natal municipality from July 2000 to May 2004, yesterday testified about his arrest in the Pietermaritzburg High Court during his civil action.
He said that during the early hours of August 25, 2004, he was woken up by police at his Westville home. There were about 40 police officers outside his property.
“There were bright lights everywhere… there was also a media contingent present,” he said.
Nair was served with a warrant of arrest and told that he was going to be taken to the Newcastle police station, where he would be charged.
He was also served with a preservation of property order informing him that his house, vehicles and belongings – which he has never been given back, even after the charges against him were withdrawn – were under restraint.
At the Newcastle police station, he was kept in a holding cell.
“I was placed with 14 people and they roughed me up… they snatched my gold neck chain and bracelet… I was shocked and fell to the ground and was taken to hospital,” he said.
Nair was later placed in another cell.
The next day he was granted bail, which was unopposed. In May 2008, the charges against him were withdrawn.
According to court papers, Nair was suspended four months before his arrest because of financial irregularities and was subsequently charged internally on 21 counts of misconduct in relation to fraud and corruption.
During his tenure, he had taken loans and salary advances amounting to R538 841.
Nair apparently resigned on the day that his disciplinary inquiry was set to start
In the particulars of claim it was stated that, because of the criminal charges, Nair had been unable to obtain employment.
He had also been given adverse media attention, which had affected his standing in his field. His prosecution had spanned five years.
It was also said that police had arrested him even though they knew he had substantial business interests prior to the charges being instituted against him.
In replying papers, the government departments denied malicious conduct.
They said there had been “a reasonable suspicion” that he had committed an offence that warranted his arrest.
Nair had been prosecuted on the basis of “prima facie” evidence.