NPA hearing hears of legal help

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breytenbach Independent Newspapers Prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach. File photo: Thobile Mathonsi

Pretoria - 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, a lawyer said on Thursday.

“There is an entire industry out there that does it,” civil and criminal lawyer Mike Hellens said at the disciplinary hearing of National Prosecuting Authority prosecutor Glynnis in Pretoria.

The NPA suspended Breytenbach last year, saying this followed a complaint by Imperial Crown Trading (ICT) over her handling of the criminal case against them, and that she was “too close” to Hellens.

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that she was suspended for not wanting the fraud charges against former crime intelligence head Lt-Gen Richard Mdluli withdrawn.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, also accused of a crime in the case in which both were vying for a stake in a Northern Cape mine.

Breytenbach had to defend herself for getting Hellens to help with drafting search and seizure warrants.

Hellens said he had become friends with Breytenbach, whom he had first met more than 20 years ago, and described her as a “bristly” but independent person.

They had many “ding-dong” fights in court when they were on opposing sides, he said.

Hellens said as lawyer he was often approached by people who wanted to report a complex crime in terms of Section 34 of the Prevention of Corrupt Activities Act.

In terms of this act, it is a crime to not report a crime when a person becomes aware of it, so his firm would be approached by people who wanted help with this “duty to report” obligation.

This could go as far as drawing up an A1 statement, which forms part of a criminal docket used by police.

“With complicated commercial matters, you can't always just go to a police station and tell the duty sergeant,” he explained.

So his and other firms help clients draw up the first statements in a case. If it is handed to a “good policeman”, he will interact with the complainant and “do a fine job”.

“Very often... the police are overburdened, good people, a lot of people are resigning, so they rely on legal assistance to help them,” he said.

Companies like KPMG and PWC had forensic divisions which devoted a significant amount of time to compiling reports and helping police.

Many of the investigators at the private companies were former policemen, he continued.

He cited cases that had been built in this way by SABMiller, the SABC and Eskom and said SARS also assisted the police in their investigations.

He said he had indeed helped Breytenbach out in terms of drawing up drafts of search warrants as well as the police - a Colonel Sandra van Wyk - in drawing up a “stern” letter to ICT's lawyers when they felt they were being strung along.

He said the case was very 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 worried ICT.

He said they did talk but asked why he should sit at the other side of the room when they knew each other.

He disputed that Breytenbach huddled with Kumba's lawyers at the court appearance.

She would have greeted and “made disparaging remarks by teasing, but that's it”, said Hellens.

Earlier, the lawyer who briefed him was pressured to give the name of a source who had said a director at ICT wanted to become a State witness.

Towards the end of the hearing on Thursday, it was revealed as a source in the State attorney's office. - Sapa


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