Cape Town - Stuck in one of South Africa’s most overcrowded and gang-infested prisons – far removed from the sports cars and the flashy lifestyle he had become accustomed to – UK fugitive Raymond Nevitt is fighting his extradition, saying that he absconded from his home country because he knew he would not be treated fairly.
The 51-year-old, who comes from a wealthy family of jewellers, allegedly fled the UK using an Irish passport under another name, and is being sought to serve the sentence which the Crown Court in Manchester imposed on him in his absence for business fraud to the tune of R60 million.
The fraud was allegedly committed when Ravelle, the company he had set up to sell second-hand computer parts to the PC maintenance industry, experienced financial difficulties.
The court heard that he conned companies into lending him money on the strength of bogus orders on forged papers – known as fresh-air invoicing.
A warrant for his arrest was issued by a Crown Court judge weeks after he fled the UK.
Several years later, UK intelligence officials tracked him to Constantia in Cape Town, and a magistrate issued a warrant for his arrest in February.
He was arrested three months later and has been in prison since then.
In a deposition attached to Nevitt’s court papers, solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales James Wilson said that Nevitt fled after being released on bail in October 2006, pending his sentencing, and before he could be tried for additional fraud charges.
Two weeks later he secured a certified copy of a birth certificate in the name of Paul McCann from the Belfast Registry Office.
McCann was born in 1964, the same year as Nevitt.
According to Wilson, he used that document to apply for and later obtain an Irish passport in McCann’s name, which he used to flee the UK before the start of the new year.
It is believed that he ended up in South Africa as early as 2010.
He is being sought to serve his sentence for fraud and any additional sentence which may be imposed on him for fleeing the UK.
In addition, in terms of confiscation of proceeds of crime proceedings, Nevitt was ordered to pay £1.6 million or face a further 10 years in jail, Wilson said.
But, from behind bars, Nevitt is preparing for a massive court battle with Minister of Justice Michael Masutha and Western Cape prosecuting authorities.
He is challenging the constitutionality of a section of South Africa’s Extradition Act, and the validity of the notification from the minister that his extradition had been requested, along with the validity of the arrest warrant issued in South Africa.
In addition, he is challenging the lawfulness of his arrest and detention.
In an affidavit, he denied he was guilty of fraud.
“Pending sentence I was released on bail and left the United Kingdom during about December 2006 in that I was of the view that I would not be afforded a fair trial in respect of the (alleged) offences,” he said.
He claimed his fundamental rights were infringed because he was tried and convicted in absentia, and said there was no option of an appeal or of having the case retried in his presence.
“I have not been accused of or charged with any crime in South Africa, and the warrant of arrest related solely to my extradition in respect of offences for which I have already been convicted in the United Kingdom.”
Turning to the constitutionality of the Extradition Act, Nevitt said that in addition to the minister’s notification, the magistrate who issued the arrest warrant locally had scant information before him, and was, therefore, unable to exercise a proper discretion, based on the conduct he was alleged to have committed.
The manner in which the applicable section was worded meant that, in reality, the magistrate had no real discretion which was contrary to the Constitutional right not to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily, or without just cause.
A date for the application has not yet been set.