Mpisane under state attack, says advocate

2012-10-27 00:00

HARSH words were reserved for prosecutors in Durban housing tycoon Shauwn Mpisane’s fraud trial yesterday as her defence team beseeched the court to protect their client.

More than two weeks of trial time have passed in total and still there has been no resumption of proceedings beyond Mpisane’s not guilty plea and various applications launched by both sides.

Mpisane is facing 119 counts of mostly tax fraud stemming from an alleged attempt to cook her company’s books in order to secure tax breaks of nearly R5 million.

She was arrested again and slapped with another two charges of corruption and defeating the ends of justice on October 19, counts which the state has applied to join with the main trial.

But Mpisane countered with her own application to continue with the case as it is in order to avoid further delays.

That, ironically, has brought on additional adjournments as both legal teams have slugged it out over the merits of their own applications.

Yesterday, defence advocate Jimmy Howse had the last word before magistrate Blessing Msane retired for the day and tentatively set down tomorrow morning to resume.

Howse, reading from a second affidavit of instructing attorney Phil Magwaza, called prosecutor Meera Naidu’s conduct an “abuse” of the legal process.

This was in response to an affidavit by investigating officer Johan Prinsloo in which he blamed the latest delays on Mpisane, using the logic that it was her fault she allegedly interfered with a witness ahead of trial on October 11.

When this argument was used last week, Msane had cautioned Naidu to steer clear of repeating language which prematurely suggested guilt on Mpisane’s part, something her defence team latched onto.

“The argument … is so fundamentally flawed and legally offensive that it is difficult to comprehend that this argument has been advanced by experienced officers of this court,” Howse quoted.

He said this meant Mpisane was being denied her constitutional right to a fair trial.

“This honourable court is requested to step in and to protect the accused’s fair trial rights.”

Naidu was also accused of obstructing the judicial process by withholding documents and her “unacceptable propensity to amend or revise the charge sheet at inopportune times” had incurred delays, said Howse.

The charge sheet has changed at various points and may still be amended to include a whole new set of 12 charges.

Howse concluded by hammering home his point that Mpisane was under attack, and unfairly so, by the state.

“I respectfully submit that the state has made itself guilty of systematically prejudicing the accused at every stage of the investigation and prosecution of this case.”

Msane will deliver his verdict on whether the trial continues, or is adjourned to have the extra charges consolidated and further investigated.

• brett.horner@witness.co.za

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