‘Stokes spent some money acceptably’

Crime & Courts

Durban - A former friend and business associate of disbarred attorney Ian Stokes - who alleges Stokes stole R2 million he gave him to start up a Road Accident Fund claims business - said he could not dispute that after he deposited the money three full-time staff were hired, premises rented and computer equipment and software bought.

Retired clothing company director Robbie Sevel earlier testified before Durban High Court Judge Esther Steyn that he had trusted Stokes to run the business but he had not “spent a cent” of his money on its intended purpose.

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Fourteen years after fleeing the country amid fraud allegations, disbarred lawyer Ian Stokes will finally stand trial in SA.

He said he deposited the money in September 1998 into Stokes’s trust account and, up until other investors had come on board a year later, “not one RAF claim was bought and the RAF did not pay one cent”.

“The bank statements prove this,” he said.

Cross-examining him, advocate Jimmy Howse suggested there had been legitimate start-up expenses and claims took a long time to process because of the required accompanying documentation, including police reports, witness statements and medical investigations.

He said Stokes had paid one “tout” R300 000 for 6 000 leads.

“I cannot dispute it. But we should have made a lot of money then,” Sevel said.

Howse said in late 1999, the RAF was under siege with fraudulent claims, there were huge delays in processing and he had advised investors of this.

Sevel said he could not recall this, claiming that all along the spreadsheets supplied by Stokes showed they were making “lots of money”.

Sevel conceded that he had made a claim to the attorneys’ fidelity fund but this had been rejected because his R2m was considered to be “working capital”.

He said after Stokes fled the country in November 2000 he had initiated sequestration proceedings against him and that he had laid a charge with the police. Stokes - who returned to South Africa from America in 2004 - is facing a single R7m charge of theft “by general deficiency” from his trust account.

The Mercury

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