One of the men accused of being the mastermind of a R100 million robbery at OR Tambo International Airport six years ago claims he is penniless.
Chris Billings made this claim after Legal Aid South Africa refused him access to a lawyer because he failed to disclose his finances to Legal Aid.
The Johannesburg High Court heard on Tuesday that Billings approached Legal Aid officials on Thursday last week and asked them to represent him in his trial along with Fox Shikunwela Sithole, Eddie Ubisi, Ronny Bongani Mbuyisa, Ananias Nefumembe, Uakereraije Maunda, Thokozani Ziqubu and Cecil Arendse.
But Legal Aid refused. The high court heard that Billings had earlier made an application for legal aid but it was discovered that he had money and owned a property in Bedfordview, which he failed to disclose to the Legal Aid officials.
Judge Nico Coetzee then instructed Billings to make full disclosures to Legal Aid or run the risk of having to defend himself when the trial resumes on Thursday.
But Billings said: “I do not have a bank account with any bank in the country. My property in Bedfordview has been sold without me getting a cent. I am blacklisted. I do not have any income. I have no employment, assets or income.”
Appealing for legal assistance, Billings said the case was a “complex matter” as he could not do it “on my own”.
Billings’s legal counsel withdrew in January because of a financial dispute.
On Tuesday, the court also heard that one of the accused, Mbuyisa, who was in court on Tuesday, had been arrested for an unrelated armed robbery in Vanderbiljpark on March 24. State prosecutor Wilhemien Vos said Mbuyisa, who was on bail for the R100m robbery, was one of 12 men who held up guards from the Coin Security company and demanded cash from them.
Meanwhile, a Joburg-based lawyer, Rooshdeen Rudolf, and his brother, Shaheed, made a brief appearance in the high court in connection with the R100m robbery. The court had heard evidence linking the brothers to the robbery.
They were fingered by Nazir Ishmail, who turned state witness.