Witness tells of shady deal

By Bernadette Wolhuter Time of article published Jul 10, 2013

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Durban - A Durban private investigator told the KwaDukuza Regional Court on Tuesday how he was approached by Ballito businessman Robert McClelland and asked to play the go-between in an underhanded exchange of seized documents, but refused.

McClelland, Oshwin Maharaj, the former deputy sheriff of Stanger, and Richards Bay attorney Brian Morkel are facing charges of corruption and defeating or obstructing the course of justice.

The State alleges the three colluded to steal incriminating documents - seized from McClelland in June 2009 - from the sheriff of Stanger’s offices and that, in 2010, they arranged to dispose of the documents.

McClelland was, at the time the evidence was seized, facing a R54 million civil action from his former company, The New Reclamation Group.

It was alleged he breached a restraint of trade agreement when he resigned and opened his own company, South African Recycling Equipment. He later opened Chicks Scrap Metal.

Led by public prosecutor Naveen Sewparsat, private investigator Sean Peirce took the stand on Tuesday.

He gave evidence that, at one stage, he and McClelland had enjoyed “a good relationship”.

In June 2009 McClelland asked if Peirce would meet the sheriff to collect a stolen “box” (of seized documents and hard drives) and to pay for it, the witness said.

McClelland allegedly offered him R20 000 to R30 000 in payment, but Peirce was “very reluctant”.

He contacted an attorney the next day, he said, and was advised to steer clear.

Peirce, in turn, told McClelland he would not be involved and advised that McClelland not go through with his plan.

During cross-examination McClelland’s advocate Terry Price questioned Peirce’s credibility.

The witness and McClelland had a fallout and, by the end of 2011, they were not on speaking terms.

Peirce confirmed that they had been involved in litigation, but commented that he had “won with costs”.

Peirce made two statements to authorities about the conversation he and McClelland had.

The first was dated May last year and the second July this year.

He conceded that, while both purported to have been sworn statements made in the presence of a police officer, he had made them to a private investigator who was in the employ of Joburg-based Werksmans Attorneys, which, in turn, was in the employ of The New Reclamation Group.

Price also asked Peirce why, when news of McClelland’s and Maharaj’s arrest became public in October 2011, he did not approach police with the information he had divulged in his statements.

Peirce would have known the two had been arrested for having carried out the plan McClelland had discussed with him, Price said.

“Isn’t a private investigator obliged to report crime to the police?” he asked.

“You could say that,” Peirce replied. “I just wanted nothing to do with Robby (McClelland).”

Peirce’s cross-examination continues today

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The Mercury

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