Get IOL's cool new iPad app...
Pretoria - E-mails found on the laptop of suspended NPA prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach could amount to unethical conduct, a witness told her disciplinary hearing in Pretoria on Tuesday.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) integrity management unit acting senior manager Hercules Wasserman said his team found a number of e-mails between Breytenbach and Mike Hellens, senior counsel for Kumba.
Wasserman said his unit was asked to investigate Breytenbach following a complaint by Mendelow Jacobs Attorneys on behalf of Imperial Crown Trading (ICT) in December last year.
This related to a dispute between ICT and Sishen/Kumba Iron Ore over mining rights, which Breytenbach investigated.
The NPA alleges that Breytenbach acted impartially in favouring Sishen over ICT in her probe and that she had an improper relationship with Hellens.
Kumba claimed that ICT, a politically-connected company with shareholders that include President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane, forged its application for prospecting rights of iron ore at Sishen.
The department of mineral resources then laid a charge against Kumba, accusing it of forging ICT’s application.
Wasserman said the e-mails indicated that Hellens drafted affidavits for Breytenbach, which was particularly concerning, as they related to a criminal matter.
Breytenbach has pleaded not guilty to 16 charges brought against her by the NPA at the hearing at its offices in Silverton.
In addition to charges relating to her conduct in investigating the Sishen dispute, she is charged with gross insubordination and improper conduct for allegedly not handing over her work laptop to the NPA, and for having information on it deleted.
Other charges relate to Breytenbach bringing the NPA into disrepute by speaking to the media, either directly or via her attorney, without authorisation.
She allegedly brought the NPA into disrepute in her Labour Court application, in which she contended that acting national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba suspended her in an attempt to protect former intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.
William Mokhari, counsel for the NPA, said she made these allegations “when you knew that in actual fact your suspension related to your conduct in the Kumba/ICT matter”.
She is also charged with performing work outside the NPA.
Earlier on Tuesday, Wasserman said Breytenbach had refused to return her work laptop to the NPA when asked to do so on February 7.
Before she would agree to hand it over, Breytenbach allegedly wanted more information on the charges against her and was concerned about the privacy of information on the laptop.
It was returned when she was suspended as regional head of the specialised commercial crime unit on April 30, but she had deleted evidence, he said.
“A forensic report... found that certain evidence was intentionally destroyed and deleted from the laptop,” Wasserman said.
The laptop was allegedly in the hands of her attorney while Breytenbach was on leave.
It was of serious concern that an NPA laptop was in the hands of a third party, especially given the highly sensitive nature of the information on it relating to high profile cases, Wasserman said.
In response, the NPA laid a criminal charge against Breytenbach at the SA Police Service's Pretoria central branch. This matter was still pending, Wasserman said.
On July 18, the Johannesburg Labour Court dismissed Breytenbach's challenge against her suspension as the judge found no extraordinary or compelling, urgent circumstances to declare her suspension unlawful.
Last year, Mdluli faced a raft of fraud and corruption charges relating to the alleged misuse of a secret crime intelligence fund to buy luxury vehicles.
He also faced a charge of murder relating to the death of an ex-lover's husband.
These charges led to his initial suspension, but they were withdrawn and he was reinstated before being suspended again in May this year, by then acting police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi.
Mdluli appealed against his suspension in the Johannesburg Labour Court, but it decided that he should remain suspended until he had also filed an application for leave to appeal an interim order - granted by the High Court in Pretoria on June 6, to Freedom Under Law - that he be suspended and not be allowed to do police work.
The hearing continues on Wednesday at 10am. - Sapa