Pretoria - Suspended NPA senior prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach denied on Thursday that she and criminal lawyer Mike Hellens acted like a couple at a court appearance.
She was given the opportunity to respond to several allegations made by attorney Ronald Mendelow, on behalf of Imperial Crown Trading (ICT), in a complaint directed to former national director of public prosecutions Menzi Simelane.
Sections of the complaint letter, which led to her suspension, were read by Breytenbach’s counsel Wim Trengove SC at her disciplinary hearing at the National Prosecuting Authority’s headquarters in Silverton, east of Pretoria.
The hearing on Thursday started off with discussions about a day in October 2011, when both Breytenbach and Hellens attended court proceedings involving ICT in the Northern Cape High Court.
In that hearing, ICT sought to set aside warrants granted by a Kimberley magistrate to police to search and seize documents at ICT's premises.
Trengove told Breytenbach: “Mr Mendelow (in his complaint) says that you and (lawyer) Mr Hellens sat together in court, and outside court you acted as if you are a couple”.
“I am not sure what that means, that we acted like a couple. We sat on a bench outside court and chatted, I don’t even remember about what,” Breytenbach responded with a chuckle.
“I was there on official business. He (Hellens) is a person I have known for 25 years. We sat on a bench outside the court and chatted. There is not a lot happening in Kimberley at the best of times. I have known him (Hellens) for 25 years. Why would I ignore him?”
After the hearing, Mendelow wrote to Simelane complaining about Breytenbach’s conduct. Mendelow contends Breytenbach had no reason to attend the hearing in Kimberley.
Breytenbach said she was there because she had “material interest” in the outcome of the matter. She said the NPA had made her travel arrangements.
She refuted claims by Mendelow that she and Hellens had “attended court together”.
She rubbished Mendelow’s allegations that she was seen at the court “huddled” with a large entourage of “Kumba (Iron Ore) people”.
“I didn’t know them, so obviously they were there, but not with me. I spent no time with them. I did not have any discussion with anybody from Kumba. That is a figment of his (Mendelow’s) imagination,” Breytenbach responded.
Mendelow complained about Breytenbach’s handling of a criminal case against them, and that she was “too close” to Hellens - a situation which would compromise her independence.
Hellens was on a brief for Kumba Iron Ore Limited, which was also accused of a crime in the ICT case. Both corporate entities were vying for a stake in Kumba's Sishen mine in the Northern Cape.
At the time, Breytenbach was working with police probing claims by Sishen Iron Ore Company (a Kumba subsidiary), that ICT had made fraudulent representations in its application for 21 percent of the iron ore mineral rights at the Sishen mine.
Mendelow wanted Breytenbach taken off the case.
The NPA suspended Breytenbach in 2012. She contends she was suspended for not wanting the fraud charges against former police crime intelligence head Lt-Gen Richard Mdluli withdrawn.
The hearing continues. - Sapa