Concourt hears asset appeal

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Johannesburg - The Constitutional Court will hear argument on Thursday on whether legal fees can be paid from a frozen account or seized assets.

In March 2006 the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) obtained a court order to seize the property of United States-Israeli citizen Meir Elran, including his bank accounts, because the items were proceeds of “transnational” crime.

Elran, an alleged ecstasy syndicate mastermind, was fighting his extradition to the US.

According to reports at the time, the Asset Forfeiture Unit seized Elran's R12 million Limpopo game farm, a R2.5 million Umhlanga home, his luxury car, and R3 million in the bank.

His extradition hearing in the Randburg Magistrate's Court took a turn when he approached the High Court in Johannesburg to force the unit to release the money so he could pay his legal fees.

The court ruled in his favour in 2009, with Judge Rose Rosenberg ordering the money to be paid into the bank account of Elran's lawyers.

The NDPP appealed against the order, but was unsuccessful. The Supreme Court of Appeal also refused leave to appeal.

The NDPP would argue in the Constitutional Court that the High Court erred in its ruling. Elran would argue the law was correctly interpreted and applied.

The seizure was conducted in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca). In order to ensure access to legal representation, Poca authorises payment of reasonable legal fees, if the High Court is satisfied the person cannot meet the legal expenses, has disclosed all interests in the seized property, and provided full disclosure of all assets and liabilities.

The NDPP argued Elran failed to disclose the full extent of his assets and cash transfers between Israeli accounts. - Sapa


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