Fidentia boss: Expect fireworks

2012-11-17 09:04

On the eve of the criminal case that will finally probe one of South Africa’s greatest financial scandals, former Fidentia boss J Arthur Brown says he is ready for the fight.

Nearly six years after his Fidentia group was placed under curatorship, and he was arrested on allegations of theft and fraud of hundreds of millions of rands, Brown has now turned to the only person he trusts for his defence – himself.

After June Marks, his latest in a string of lawyers, withdrew from the case this week, Brown has now decided to conduct his own defence in the trial that begins tomorrow.

“There will be fireworks on Monday,” promised a confident Brown in exclusive interviews with City Press this week.

Brown faces nine charges that include fraud, corruption, theft and money laundering, with one fraud count involving an alleged R40 million pyramid scheme.

Brown is accused of being the kingpin behind the disappearance of millions belonging to thousands of poor mining widows and orphans in the Living Hands Trust and the Transport Education Training Authority, among others.

Brown’s Cape High Court trial – already delayed for years as Brown frequently changed his legal representatives and launched a flurry of legal actions against the state – will examine one of the country’s most spectacular corporate implosions.

But Brown, who denies any deliberate attempt on his part to delay his day in court, insists the case will instead expose the dirty deeds of his accusers.

“I will expose the conduct of individuals in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the Hawks, the Financial Services Board and the curators in the matter,” he said.

“I will not challenge the integrity of the NPA or police service as institutions, but missteps of individuals in my malicious prosecution will be pointed out in court,” vowed Brown.

Brown this week told Judge Anton Veldhuizen that information vital for his defence was still being withheld by the state despite repeated requests that he be given access to it.

Advocate Jannie van Vuuren, the chief prosecutor in the case, told the court: “This is a blatant lie.” He claimed Brown and his lawyers had been given a number of CDs containing the material.

“Not true,” said Brown. “They just show some cheques and some information, but what happened in the middle, that they will not show.

“They alleged Fidentia had 300 bank accounts, but there were only 40.”

Brown also rejected a description of himself as a diamond smuggler with underworld links who had his own “private army” and said such claims had been made by an investigating officer who had been instructed to say so.

Brown’s associations have been alleged to include the late Cyril Beeka, a notorious underworld figure who was killed by two assassins in Cape Town last year.

Brown said: “I have no underworld connections. I have met several people with a chequered past since my arrest and over the past four years.

“At the time I met with Beeka, I did not know him or of any of his alleged misdeeds. I met with Beeka and several of his associates, one of whom is a well-known attorney and the other an ex-director of Absa bank,” he said.

“My discussions with Beeka revolved only around the Santé Hotel (a Fidentia property at the time). Beeka in turn introduced me to Vito Palazzolo (an Italian mafia kingpin who lived in South Africa for years and who is now detained in a Thai prison), whom he claimed to be the “banker” who was going to fund the purchase of Santé,” said Brown.

The deal had not happened in the end.

Brown also hit out at what he claimed were his detractors over the past five years. Afrikaans-speaking people “from behind the ‘boerewors curtain’ who hide behind their high walls and security gates in Durbanville”.

He claimed he was regarded as a hero among coloured and black people in the Cape “because I gave them 47 orphanages and more”.

But there was one question he deflected: where are the missing Fidentia millions?

“That you should ask the curators,” said Brown.

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