By Karen Breytenbach
Millionaire businessman Mark Lifman has for a second time been acquitted of charges of having sex with boys under the age of consent.
Dressed in a black pinstripe suit and flanked by a bodyguard, the entrepreneur formerly in fashion, nightclubs, horse racing and property development, sped away from the Atlantis Regional Court in his black Mercedes-Benz, a free man.
Lifman pleaded not guilty to charges of indecently assaulting seven boys, the attempted murder of a man who allegedly procured the boys and defeating the ends of justice after his arrest in 2005. He was released on R200 000 bail at the time. Lifman chose not to testify in his own defence.
In an impromptu judgment delivered yesterday after one of two remaining State witnesses against Lifman was declared hostile after suddenly recanting his earlier allegations, magistrate Amanda Lucas found that the state had not proved its case against Lifman beyond reasonable doubt.
Of the original six indecent assault charges against him, the seventh having fallen away because a witness could not be found, Lifman was granted discharge on four counts due to contradictory and poor evidence. All the young men who testified against him were from poor homes, uneducated and admitted to drug use.
Two remaining charges that needed answering related to two boys who corroborated each other on claims that they engaged in sexual activities with Lifman for money when they were in their early teens. They are now 19 and 21 years old, and are both from the Ysterplaat area.
In a dramatic turn of events, these two charges fell away yesterday due to an about-turn by one witness. He alleged the Scorpions had told him to testify about a sexual relationship with Lifman.
The young man, with his mother in the public gallery, denied that he had been influenced by the defence to change his testimony. He claimed he was told by the investigating officer that he would go to jail for 16 years for contempt of court if he did not testify.
Cross-examined by prosecutor Piet Steyn after being declared a hostile witness, the youth was asked about his statement, signed by him, his mother, step-father and father, in which he described how painful it was when Lifman sexually penetrated him.
The boy initially said he was reluctant to talk about these acts in front of his parents, because it was embarrassing, but eventually decided to speak out because it was "the right thing to do".
Reading some passages of his earlier evidence and reminding him of how he stuck to his story despite being accused of being a liar and drug addict by the defence, Steyn told him that the earlier version appeared to be honest.