Zuma lawyer in hot water

2015-02-08 15:01

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A complaint will be laid against President Jacob Zuma’s lawyer tomorrow – that he lied under oath to avoid a R1.5?billion lawsuit.

The liquidators of gold mining company Pamodzi confirmed that they would file a complaint of perjury with the Law Society of the Northern Provinces (LSNP) against ­attorney Michael Hulley.

The complaint relates to Hulley’s involvement in Aurora Empowerment Systems, the mining company run by the president’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma and Nelson Mandela’s grandson Zondwa Mandela.

Hulley was called to testify before a commission of inquiry in 2011, where he claimed that, although he had been approached to act as a nonexecutive director of Aurora, he was never appointed and ­merely assisted Aurora in an advisory capacity.

The day after his testimony, Zuma announced Hulley’s appointment as the presidency’s legal adviser.

But based on three board of director resolutions, which appear to be signed by Hulley, the liquidators now believe Hulley lied about his role in Aurora “in an ostensible attempt to avoid liability”.

The papers came to light in an affidavit deposed by Aurora director Thulani Ngubane last year. The liquidators are asking the LSNP for an “immediate investigation” into whether Hulley committed perjury.

A board resolution that liquidators believe shows that Hulley was a director of Aurora

Hulley failed to respond to a list of questions this week.

But he told City Press on the phone on Friday: “I can’t comment on an intention someone has ­expressed to you. So when they have [laid the complaint], I will deal with it. And at that time, I may choose or otherwise not to make comment.”

Aurora directors Zuma, Mandela and Ngubane, as well as consultants Fazel and Solly Bhana, will be back in court next month facing a claim of R1.5?billion from Pamodzi’s liquidators.

The amount includes R122?million in missing gold sales and R1.4?billion for damage caused to the Grootvlei and Orkney mines.

Hulley was not named as a respondent in the case because, according to the complaint, “the reasoning of the liquidators, in excluding Hulley, was based on our clients’ reliance that he, as an officer of the high court, was truthful in his testimony”.

But on Friday the liquidators confirmed through their attorney that they will now seek to hold Hulley liable for a portion of the R1.5?billion claim.

“Hulley’s appointment as a director has been an issue of dispute for several years, but we are now confident that we can institute our action against [him],” attorney John Walker said. “I have instructions to institute a legal action against Hulley, to hold him liable for the debts of Aurora in his capacity as director.”

The topic of Hulley’s involvement in Aurora is a divisive issue among the company’s directors. While Ngubane and Mandela claim that Hulley was a director, Zuma and Hulley both say he was an adviser.

Hulley was listed as a nonexecutive director on the Aurora bid document, as well as their letterheads and website. But the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) records show that he was only officially registered as a director for a day.

In his testimony before the inquiry, Hulley said he was unaware that he was registered as a director, and he asked Aurora’s management to correct the error on the letterhead. The liquidators had accepted Hulley’s story and in court papers filed in 2012, accused the Aurora directors of “misrepresenting the facts”.

While many of Ngubane’s claims have been contradicted by witnesses who testified at the 2011 inquiry, the liquidators say that the signed resolutions (dated January 8, January 26 and July 15 2010) have cast new doubts on Hulley’s testimony.

“When we issued summonses after we closed the inquiry, it was not crystal clear to us that Hulley was a director,” liquidator Johan Engelbrecht said. “But subsequent papers that were filed by some of the other respondents pointed out that Hulley is a ­director.”

This week Khulubuse Zuma backed Hulley’s claims. “Mr Hulley was never appointed, and never served, as a director of the company,” said his spokesperson, Vuyo Mkhize.

When the case returns to court next month, the liquidators will ask the court to hold Zuma, Mandela, Ngubane as well as the Bhanas jointly liable for the R1.5?billion claim. It is too late to add Hulley as a respondent in the case. But Walker confirmed that they intend to launch a separate application against him.

Once the liquidator’s complaint has been received by the LSNP, they will make a decision on whether to launch an investigation into Hulley’s conduct.

LSNP director Thinus Grobler said any attorney ­accused of perjury is first given an opportunity to explain his or her conduct.

“If any attorney knowingly mislead the court by lying under oath, that would be very serious.”

Sanctions for lying under oath vary from a fine of up to R100?000, to being struck off the roll.

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