Cape Town - The National Prosecuting Authority says it is deeply saddened by the passing of Johan van der Walt - the man dubbed the bloodhound auditor.
Van der Walt was listed as the main witness and author of the forensic report in the corruption trial against former president Jacob Zuma.
Reports suggest that the auditor, who was a senior managing director of FTI Consulting, died of natural causes in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The exact cause of his death is unknown at this stage.
Van der Walt, who was partner and forensic auditor at KPMG before he joined FTI in 2017, testified in the corruption trial of of businessman Schabir Shaik and two former senior Saambou Bank officials, Charles Edwards and Gerhardus De Clercq.
The duo were however found not guilty on the 10 counts of fraud, theft and two of contravening the Companies Act, involving R640m.
Criminal law expert William Booth said Van der Walt’s passing was not the end of the road for Zuma.
With Van der Walt being the key witness, Booth explained two potential ways the courts will approach: “If he drafted the report, checked the evidence and finalised everything, it could have an impact on the case. Should it be so, somebody else would have to look at the evidence and draft a new report which could result in a potential postponement.
“However, if he compiled the report together with others then they would be in a position to potentially testify.”
Law expert Willie Spies added that in high profile cases, such as Zuma’s and Shaik’s, there would be managers and consultants working with the forensic auditor.
“I have not seen or read the report, but coming from that background as I have worked for an audit firm before, there are always other members of the team who would be suitable to testify.”
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga confirmed both Spies and Booth’s views and told Independent Media that another qualified forensic accountant will present the report.
“We are saddened by his passing on and condolences to his family. His passing on will have no impact on the case as FTI Consulting retains the brief and arrangements will be made in due course for another qualified forensic accountant to present the report.”
Van der Walt’s employer profile reads that he has conducted investigative work in over 70 countries around the world.
Among others, his work included assisting clients in investigations and dispute resolutions with local regulators involving customs and excise.
The matters investigated included allegations of undervaluation of imports and exports, maladministration in the clearance process, irregular conduct by clearing agents and corrupt practices.
He further conducted numerous investigations in East Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, South Africa, Lusophone countries, Europe (including Jersey, Guernsey and the British Virgin Islands), the Middle East, the far East and South East Asia in matters (criminal and civil litigation).
These matters included the mining, energy, financial services, logistics services, telecommunications, agriculture, industrial services, construction, local government and public service sectors. He was an expert forensic accountant in various high-profile criminal matters where the individuals have been prosecuted and/or are in the process of prosecution; and he conducted the determination of losses suffered by one of the South African major retail groups as a result of an extortion incident.
Independent Media contacted Zuma’s lawyer, Dali Mpofu, who declined to comment.
FTI Consulting did not respond at the time of print.