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Ex-Musica boss cleared of criminal record he never knew he had

Crime & Courts
Pretoria - A former regional manager of Musica stores said he was “gobsmacked” when he recently discovered he had a criminal record for being in possession of counterfeit goods.

In addition, he had signed an admission of guilt and agreed to pay a R170 000 fine to that effect.

John William Cilliers told the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, that he never appeared in court; neither did he admit to any guilt.

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File picture: Independent Media

He said he only discovered his “criminal record” and subsequent “conviction” when he left the employ of Musica and applied for a visa to travel to Namibia. A police clearance was done against his name, which “revealed his criminal record”.

Cilliers successfully applied for an order setting aside his conviction and sentence.

He said in a statement before court that during 2007 he was called to Musica’s store in Menlyn, which was at the time being raided. 

An inspector of the Department of Trade and Industry told him that a complaint had been lodged regarding certain counterfeit goods found in this store.

Cilliers said he was surprised, as Musica always purchased genuine goods.

A few weeks later a summons was served on him and he was charged as representing Musica in respect of the counterfeit goods.

He was told to be at the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on May 8, 2007. 

Musica meanwhile said it would appoint a lawyer to represent him during the trial.

Cilliers went to court, where police told him that he was formally being charged and he was advised of his rights. 

He, his attorney and Robbie Ferns, Musica’s merchandise executive, met the magistrate in chambers to discuss the matter, along with the prosecutor.

It was decided that Ferns would present evidence to the court. 

Cilliers said the magistrate told him that in light of this, he was no longer required in court and excused.

“I was never asked to plead and I was never even required to be in court. I was relieved as I could continue with my life.”

Cilliers said he never heard anything about the trial again, until a few months later, when he read in a newspaper that Musica was fined R170 000 after it was found guilty of contravening the Counterfeit Goods Act.

“I found the article interesting, but gave it no more though as my name was not mentioned I assumed the State decided to proceed against Musica and not me. That was the last time I heard anything of the matter until about November 2015.”

Cilliers said he was in complete shock when his police clearance revealed he had a criminal record as he was convicted, alongside Musica, eight years ago. 

His shock was even greater when shown the police docket and the “fact” that he agreed to pay the R170 000 admission of guilt fine. 

It also showed he appeared in court no fewer than eight times.

Cilliers said Musica may have pleaded guilty and agreed to pay the fine, but it definitely did not apply to him. 

“The fact that I was not even present when the proceedings took place rendered the proceedings irregular. There was a failure of justice."

Judge Selby Baqwa agreed that it would be unfair to allow the conviction to stand under the circumstances.

Pretoria News

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