Accountant to sue state for R14mComment on this story
An accountant who was thrown into a crowded police holding cell where he was robbed of his gold jewellery plans to sue the State for more than R14 million.
He said he was unlawfully detained for two nights and charged with fraud and corruption.
At the time of the arrest he had been employed at the Dannhauser municipality as the financial manager.
In papers before the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday, Ashwin Nair said the charges and adverse media coverage during his lengthy prosecution had prevented him from finding work.
The Westville accountant is claiming damages for his unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution on charges of fraud and corruption.
He wants to sue the ministers of justice and of safety and security and the national director of public prosecutions for R14 250 000.
Nair said that in May 2003 he was “unlawfully, wrongfully, intentionally and maliciously” arrested at the municipality.
His prosecution had spanned five years, but in May 2008, charges against him were permanently withdrawn.
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. He had been prosecuted on the basis of prima facie evidence.
In April 2004 Nair was suspended 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 resigned on the day that his disciplinary inquiry was set to start.
Testifying on Monday, Nair said that on the morning of his arrest, his intercom had buzzed at about 4am.
“When I answered the intercom, I was told by the investigating officer that a warrant for my arrest had been issued and I should open the door,” Nair said.
He said there were at least 40 police officers and journalists, photographers and cameramen waiting for him outside his property.
“When I opened the gate to my property it was like a stampede. People started helping themselves to my furniture and belongings and I was told that a preservation order had been granted and my assets were going to be confiscated,” he said.
He was handcuffed and put into a police vehicle, all of which was captured on camera and aired on SABC and e.tv news stations.
Nair was taken to the Dannhauser police station and then appeared in the magistrate’s court together with Dannhauser municipal manager Eddie Chetty.
They were remanded in custody and later transported to the Newcastle police cells and crammed into a small cell with 14 other prisoners.
Nair said the police did not remove their gold jewellery before putting them in the cells, and he and Chetty were “roughed up” and had their personal belongings stolen by the other inmates.
“When this happened I became ill and could not breathe. I fell to the ground, gasping for air, and the warders opened the cell and took me to hospital, where I was treated and discharged. When I was taken back to the prison, I was put into a different cell,” Nair said.
He was later granted bail.
Nair said that following the withdrawal of the charges against him, assets confiscated by the Asset Forfeiture Unit had not been returned to him.
“My house, my cars, my belongings… I have been given nothing back,” he said, adding that he believes his house has been sold.
The trial continues on Tuesday.