Durban - Fraud and corruption accused, wealthy uMhlanga businessman Thoshan Panday, has had a major fallout with his attorney over money with reports that he has refused to pay some advocates fees.
One of those who have not been paid is Joburg-based advocate Nazeer Cassim, SC, a well-respected lawyer with strong ties to President Jacob Zuma.
Although rarely involved in criminal matters, Cassim was consulted along with two other local advocates after Panday – who brags about his political connections – was arrested in April.
The charges related to an alleged attempt to bribe a Captain Kevin Stephen to generate false documentation to defraud the police service.
Cassim told The Mercury on Thursday that he was brought in to “discuss the overall defence strategy”.
Asked if he knew why he had been approached, he said: “I don’t know. I wasn’t keen in getting involved. It wasn’t my cup of tea.”
He confirmed that he had yet to be paid for his time.
The row between Panday and his former attorney Tashya Giyapersad was made public on Thursday when Panday and his co-accused, Captain Aswin Narainpersad, appeared briefly in the Durban Regional Court.
In terms of rules governing the legal profession, all advocates have to be briefed by an attorney who collects fees from clients and then pays them.
Giyapersad – who has represented Panday in all of his legal issues over the past few years – sent advocate Nash Dheoduth to court to tell the magistrate that her firm was withdrawing as the attorneys of record and, somewhat unusually, why.
“It is my instruction to place on record that this is a dispute regarding an outstanding bill for counsel… three were instructed… there is an outstanding fee to advocate Cassim,” he said.
The new attorneys on record had been informed of this, he said.
Magistrate Sharon Marks said it was a “contractual dispute” and nothing to do with the court.
Panday, however, claimed that he did not owe anyone any money and said the matter was now being handled by the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society.
“I have paid all advocates who were instructed and paid my legal bill in full.
Asked about advocate Cassim he said: “I have no idea who he is.
“I only know that advocate (Joe) Wolmarans was in court and handled my bail application.”
Giyapersad told The Mercury that Cassim had been brought in on Panday’s instructions.
“He attended the consultation with myself, advocate Wolmarans and members of Panday’s family… fees are definitely owed,” she said.
A source, who did not wish to be named, said Wolmarans had also not been in paid in full.
“It is very acrimonious. Panday says he has paid Giyapersad and she has not paid the advocates. She says he has not paid her.
He reported her to the law society and a dispute has now been declared.
“The society has instructed that the disputed fees be paid into a trust account until the matter has been settled,” the source said.
No one at the law society could be reached for comment on Thursday.
Panday and Narainpersad would appear in court again in October when the State will hand over a final charge sheet and all documentation for trial preparation.
Panday is also charged, along with another police officer, Navin Madhoe, with attempting to bribe provincial Hawks head Major-General Johan Booysen.
They will appear in the Durban High Court next week when a trial should be set.
Panday, Narainpershad and Madhoe are also suspects in an investigation into an alleged R60-million SAPS procurement fraud.