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Pretoria - The relationship between suspended NPA senior prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach and criminal lawyer Mike Hellens came under the spotlight at a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday.
Breytenbach was giving evidence at her hearing at the National Prosecuting Authority’s headquarters in Silverton, east of Pretoria.
Wim Trengove, for Breytenbach, asked her to explain her relationship with Hellens and to say whether she would be lenient on Hellens’ clients - considering the two worked in rival positions.
“In executing your duties, do you go light on the pedal because your friend is on the other side?” asked Trengove.
“Quite the opposite,” Breytenbach responded.
“I don't like losing, particularly not to Hellens. I like to think we are even, though he may be a bit ahead.”
She said she had known Hellens for 25 years and that they had “social interactions”. She said she had similar friendships with many other lawyers and advocates.
The NPA suspended Breytenbach last year, and said Imperial Crown Trading (ICT) had complained about her handling of a criminal case against them, and that she was “too close” to Hellens.
However, Breytenbach contends that she was suspended for not wanting the fraud charges against former crime intelligence head Lt-Gen Richard Mdluli withdrawn.
Hellens was on a brief for Kumba Iron Ore Limited, which was also accused of a crime in the ICT case, in which both corporate entities were vying for a stake in a Northern Cape mine.
Breytenbach had to defend herself for getting Hellens to help draft search and seizure warrants.
She said: “I asked Hellens to help us with the actual drafting, putting words on paper, because he is much better than I and certainly much better than (police Colonel Sandra) Van Wyk.”
In January, Hellens told the hearing it was not unusual for complex commercial investigations to be prepared by private investigators and lawyers, then handed to police as a “ready-made” case.
“There is an entire industry out there that does it,” he said.
Hellens said he had indeed helped Breytenbach draw up drafts of search warrants, and Van Wyk draw up a “stern” letter to ICT's lawyers when they felt they were being strung along.
He said the case was complicated and “even Glynnis” probably needed it explained at first.
The ICT/Kumba case dated back to the days of Iscor, which was then South Africa's iron and steel producer, he said.
He defended criticism that he and Breytenbach's body language at a Kimberley court case relating to the dispute showed that they were very close, and that this had worried ICT.
He said they did talk, and he asked why he should sit on the other side of the room when they knew each other.
The hearing continues on Thursday. - Sapa