Consultancy state revealed at Breytenbach showdown

2013-01-27 10:00

It was a week in which the dearth of critical skills in the public service came under the microscope.

This was evidenced not only by the revelation by the Auditor-General of a R102 billion consultancy state in South Africa, but by the disciplinary hearing of veteran prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach.

Breytenbach is accused of colluding with senior advocate Mike Hellens, acting for Anglo-owned miner Kumba Iron Ore, in a case involving iron ore mining rights worth billions.

Kumba is the complainant in a criminal case of fraud, in which Breytenbach was involved.

Hellens assisted the police in preparing affidavits for a search and seizure application against Imperial Crown Trading (ICT) and the department of mineral resources.

ICT is linked to President Jacob Zuma, his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, and the president’s friends, the Gupta family.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is charging Breytenbach for allegedly turning a blind eye to a counter-complaint against Kumba.

She denies the charges and claims they were brought with an ulterior purpose – to stifle her case against suspended crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli.

Hellens, who has more than 30 years of experience in practising law, took the stand to testify for Breytenbach this week and spent a large part of his evidence describing the police’s low level of competence.

He told the hearing that it is common practice nowadays for big corporates to prepare entire criminal cases for the police and hand over completed dockets, ready for arrest.

“The police have a poor history in drawing up search warrants properly. I had to reduce the information (in the Kumba case) for the magistrate to understand the case.”

With the closure of the Scorpions in 2009, the state lost a significant number of experienced investigators who were scooped up by the country’s top audit firms – the same ones who make millions by consulting for the state.

Hellens gave a number of examples of cases that were almost entirely investigated and prepared by the complainants, their lawyers and forensic accountants.

This included the SABC’s fraud and corruption case against former Lesedi FM presenter Thuso Motaung; a case of fraud brought by SAB against one of their own employees; and a complicated computer fraud matter.

“Often the police are overburdened and more assistance is needed. Corporates also employ forensic accountants,” Hellens said.

Kumba had come to him to do an “initial report” of ICT’s alleged fraud.

“They hoped the police would then investigate further and forgery would be shown.”

Hellens said he was currently involved in a case “with one investigating officer (from the police) and a full forensic team from Gobodo doing the work”.

The state, according to him, doesn’t have the capacity to draw up complex court papers. “I don’t know any state attorney who can do that,” said Hellens.

Hellens’ views were supported by Advocate Nazeer Cassim, also testifying for Breytenbach, about an alleged attempt by him and Hellens to offer indemnity to an ICT director.

“I am sad to see Glynnis being prosecuted when there is a dearth of skills in the public service,” said Cassim, adding it was difficult for him to follow proceedings in the matter. “It hurts me. It is absolute nonsense.”

Cassim used the opportunity to lambaste the NPA for going after Breytenbach.

“Why don’t you use your resources to fight the bad guys rather than prosecute a leading prosecutor?” he asked.

“I find it unacceptable that a matter of this nature can permeate the attention of so many senior people in the public sector ... Use your resources to fight crime. Stop fighting among yourselves.”

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