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Fraudster returns to court to alter plea

Cape Town - Convicted of 631 counts of fraud after pleading guilty last year, Najwa Taliep was back in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court on Tuesday for an application to change her plea to not guilty.

Taliep initially pleaded guilty to transferring R961 081 from accounts in the names of Julius Buchinsky Organisation, SA Sale Promotions and Julius Buchinsky into her two personal bank accounts. The transfers took place from January 2008 to December 2010, while she was working as Buchinsky’s personal assistant.

The court found Taliep reflected the fraudulent transfers as payments to Buchinsky clients or as day-to-day expenses. At the time she was represented by Legal Aid attorney Hayley Lawrence.

Taliep has since changed lawyers and is now represented by William Booth. She claims her first lawyer “ignored a valid defence”. But on Tuesday Lawrence testified that there was no “valid defence”.

Booth told the court that Taliep said she had not fully understood the plea explanation and that Lawrence had not explained it fully at the time.

Lawrence said Taliep had been informed of procedures every step of the way.

The matter was postponed.

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