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YOLANDE DU PREEZ and SAPA
A LAWYER representing suspended prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach tore into her employer, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), yesterday, saying the probe into her conduct went far beyond its mandate to “rustle up” charges.
Wim Trengove, SC, was cross-examining Hercules Wasserman, acting senior manager of the NPA’s integrity management unit, at Breytenbach’s disciplinary hearing in Pretoria.
Trengove asked Wasserman if his unit had done anything other than go through Breytenbach’s e-mails to investigate the complaint of Imperial Crown Trading (ICT) – lodged by Mendelow Jacobs Attorneys in December – relating to a mining company dispute.
Wasserman said they had not.
Breytenbach faces charges of gross insubordination and improper conduct. It is alleged she did not hand over her work laptop to the NPA and that she deleted information on it.
Wasserman said that when Breytenbach refused to hand over the laptop, he had reassured her that her personal information would be treated with sensitivity.
But Trengove said this had not happened. Instead, investigators had used personal information to draw up further charges.
This included using Breytenbach’s application for car finance in 2009 to draw up a charge of performing work outside the NPA.
“You were meant to be investigating the Mendelow (attorneys) complaint… and this document has nothing whatsoever to do with it,” Trengove said.
Wasserman conceded: “This did not have anything to do with the Mendelow complaint.”
Earlier, Trengove branded as “reckless and incriminating” Wasserman’s testimony that Brey-tenbach intentionally destroyed evidence on her laptop before returning it to the NPA. Trengove noted that no files had been deleted from Breytenbach’s laptop before her suspension on April 30.
Also, a mirror copy of the hard drive had been made in the presence of two NPA officials.
Only then were e-mails of a “personal nature” deleted.
Breytenbach offered the officials a copy of the hard drive, which they declined, saying they could “retrieve the information from the server”.
Trengove argued that Wasserman had no idea what was deleted from Breytenbach’s laptop. ”It’s a gross distortion of the truth to say she deleted evidence.”
Wasserman’s investigation had followed a complaint by Mendelow Jacobs Attorneys on behalf of Imperial Crown Trading. The attorneys also filed a complaint against Mike Hellens, senior counsel for Kumba Iron Ore/Sishen. The investigation related to Breytenbach’s handling of a dispute between Kumba Iron Ore/ Sishen and ICT.
Wasserman has testified that a forensic report indicated that Breytenbach had deleted “evidence” from her laptop before handing it over to the NPA on May 2.
He said Breytenbach was also in breach of the NPA’s media policy as she leaked information to the media, bringing the NPA into disrepute.
Evidence included e-mails between Breytenbach and Beeld news editor Sonja Carstens. These e-mails indicated something other than a professional relationship and that created suspicion, he said.
The e-mails included conversations about charities as well as “gossip” about NPA spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga’s Facebook status.
Wasserman said a forensic report indicated 508 files had been deleted from Breytenbach’s laptop, but the contents were not known. Only the name of one of the files, listed as Kumba, was known.
Trengove asked Wasserman why he did not contact Hellens about the alleged incriminating e-mails between Hellens and Breytenbach.
“Nobody has ever asked (Hellens) for his side of the story and he is suffering negative publicity.”
Wasserman said he had been mandated to investigate Breyten-bach only as an NPA employee.
The case continues.