NPA in bid to revive R28m illicit diamond deals case
Johannesburg - “Sanity prevailed in the end,” proclaimed a man at the Kimberley High Court in 2018, relieved that his relative and 12 other businesspeople won an order quashing their prosecution over alleged illicit diamond trade.
Little did he know that the case, which entered the courts in 2014 after arrests, was far from over.
Two years after the unnamed man expressed his relief to the local newspaper Solomon Star, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has set out to resurrect his headache - if he is still alive - over what he reportedly termed a case “stained from the beginning”.
The State agency is headed to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to appeal the order that secured the 13 Kimberley-based diamond dealers a permanent stay of prosecution.
The SCA will hear the NPA’s application on May 7. This as revealed in the Bloemfontein-based appeals court’s recently published bulletin.
Citing the Northern Cape Director of Public Prosecutions as an applicant, the bulletin mentioned all 13 accused in the collapsed prosecution as respondents.
They are Ashley Brooks, Patrick Mason, Monojkumar Detroja, Karel Van Graaf, Sarel Van Graaf, Trevor Pikwane, Kevin Urry, Jan Weenink, Mcdonald Visser, Antonella Florio-Poone, Ahmed Khorani, Komilan Packrisamy and Frank Perridge.
The 13 faced 139 counts pertaining to illicitly dealing in diamonds. Police obtained their evidence by using an agent to trap diamond dealers into illicit transactions.
Transactions amounting to R28 million were traced. Their range of charges included illicit diamond dealing and racketeering.
In 2018, Judge Johann Daffue ruled in favour of their application for permanent stay of prosecution that the accused were prejudiced by unreasonable delays.
The trial had already suffered a blow before the stay of prosecution application.
A Judge recused herself from the trial apparently due to threats she received for presiding over the matter, forcing the State to start the trial afresh.
Judge Daffue was at pains to explain that permanently staying prosecution was an extraordinary remedy, but maintained it was warranted in this case.
He said he weighed societal demand that accused people should trial for serious crimes “with the prejudice already suffered and to be suffered” if the trial was to start afresh.
“Some of the applicants are almost seventy years old,” Judge Daffue pointed out.
“They might have been completely mulcted with legal costs in order to defend themselves in the criminal case in the High Court over a period that could be as prolonged as four to six years, whilst the matter should have been finalised within a year or two.”
The SCA said in its bulletin the appeal arguments will look into “whether the (high) court was correct in finding that there was indeed an unreasonable delay” and “whether the respondents’ right to a fair trial has been compromised”.
The court will also be asked to determine whether it will be appropriate for the trial to commence anew.