Advocate in court for defrauding Legal Aid SA wants free legal aid

2014-07-01 15:49

An advocate who allegedly cheated Legal Aid SA and faces criminal charges now wants free legal aid representation, the Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Bellville, Cape Town, has heard.

Advocate Motlatsi Ishmail Pitlele (43) of Mitchells Plain hopes to know the outcome of his application for free legal aid representation when he appears in court again on August 1.

At his fifth appearance today, before Magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg, prosecutor Simone Liedeman told the court that the legal aid authorities had already processed Pitlele’s application for aid.

However, his application was incomplete and Legal Aid SA had given him a list of documents that had to be included with his application, she said.

Pitlele was previously represented by Saliem Banderker, who withdrew for financial reasons.

Liedeman alleges that Pitlele billed Legal Aid SA for work not done on two occasions. He has not yet pleaded to two fraud charges involving R23 464.

According to the charge sheet, Legal Aid SA engages legal practitioners in private practice to defend indigent persons in need of free legal representation, by means of the Judicare system.

Pitlele was engaged by the legal aid authorities in July 2006 to represent an accused person in a Western Cape High Court criminal trial.

Liedeman alleges that Pitlele billed the legal aid authorities in February 2007 for R11 577 and falsely specified that the trial had run from February 12 to 27, and was still running.

The bill was approved and payment made into his bank account.

According to the charge sheet, the case was then allocated to another advocate to complete the partly heard matter.

The second advocate finalised the case, and stated in his account that he had in fact started and finalised the case, and that the matter was not partly heard when he took over, as allegedly claimed by Pitlele.

On the second fraud charge, Pitlele is similarly alleged to have billed the legal aid authorities for R14 210 for work he had not done in the Western Cape High Court.

In the belief that he had in fact represented the second client, the legal aid authorities paid him R11 887.

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