FNB alleged fraudster in court, again

By Rivonia Naidu

Clynton Cotton, the FNB financial adviser charged with fraud and theft, walked into the dock of the Commercial crime court on Friday slightly more relaxed than his first few court appearances.

As his attorney, Gideon Scheltema, began cross-examination, Cotton sat in the dock, armed with his pen and note-pad. His wife Lisa, who was also arrested along with Cotton's secretary, Omakanthi Govender in August, made a brief appearance in support of her husband.

Lisa Cotton and Govender are out on bail of R100 000 and R5 000 respectively, but Cotton's bail application is still proceeding. The State is opposing bail, saying that in eight years Cotton lived a jet-set lifestyle of regular leisure trips and big ticket purchases that included buying golf equipment to the tune of R100 000.

Funding his lifestyle were almost 100 unsuspecting FNB clients. During the time he allegedly fleeced his Overport branch clients of R21-million he earned a comfortable salary of about R30 000 a month.

Sitting in the witness box was Superintendent Joe Govindsamy of the SAPS Serious Fraud Unit.

Scheltema began his cross- examination by asking Govindsamy questions on objectivity, saying that after studying the evidence, he had established that on several instances, Govindsamy's evidence had a measure of sarcasm.

However, the crux of his questioning was regarding the last funds Cotton had withdrawn from the Securitised Endowment Traders (SET) account. SET was not a registered company and the account was in the name of his wife and her now deceased father.

FNB clients, mostly aged between 60 and 70, thought they were investing legitimately. However, their funds were deposited into this bank account.

The court heard from Scheltema that one of the most important facts in the State opposing bail was the fact that Cotton "had the audacity to draw the last funds (R160 000) from the SET account after he was suspended from FNB".

Scheltema inquired from Govindsamy if ongoing investigations had determined the whereabouts of the R160 000, to which Govindsamy replied "no", saying that if Cotton "could justify the spending of the money", then police would know.

Scheltema said he could not understand how "senior police officials" of a "high level investigation" could not find the R160 000.

He asked Govindsamy if police had discussed the R160 000 with the CEO of FNB, Jan Richter, and the legal adviser, Jacquie de la Ray.

Govindsamy said he was not sure if Richter and De la Ray were aware of the R160 000 drawn out of the SET account.

Scheltema told the court he was quite certain Richter and De la Ray were aware of the money, as De la Ray had asked Cotton to withdraw it and pay it back to the bank.

Govindsamy maintained he was not informed by Richter and De la Ray - despite meetings with Richter - that Cotton had paid FNB the R160 000.

Scheltema also said that Cotton's co-operation with FNB management and police should be taken into account.

The court heard from Scheltema that until one sees the full picture, one cannot say Cotton had swindled R21-million from FNB clients and that evidence was lacking at this stage.

Scheltema asked Govindsamy about his accusations that Cotton might flee the country if granted bail, saying police had no concrete evidence at their disposal that in July this year Cotton was making enquiries to flee the country.