Witness admits seeing prior testimony

2013-06-28 00:00

THE prosecutor in the trial of Durban tycoon Shauwn Mpisane was warned of a possible sanction, the Durban Regional Court heard yesterday.

Judge Blessing Msani warned prosecutor Meera Naidu that she could face possible sanction when it became apparent that a key state witness, Waheeda Osman, a senior audit official at the SA Revenue Service (SARS) Durban office, conceded she had been read the transcript of another state witness while in preparation for her taking the stand.

Osman has been on the stand for a combined total of 13 days since May and has since Tuesday been under cross-examination.

Her evidence is being used as the basis for criminal charges against Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance and Transport CC, of which Mpisane is a sole director. Mpisane is facing 118 counts of fraud and another for contravening the Close Corporations Act. Zikhulise is accused of creating fictitious invoices to give the company a tax break of R4,8-million.

On Tuesday, legal counsel for Mpisane, Rafik Bhana SC, probed the possibility of Osman having seen testimony given to the court by SARS group executive Mashudu Johannes Makwakwa in November 2012 before she was brought to the stand. While Osman conceded to Bhana that she had seen the transcripts, he was not able to categorically extract this statement out of Osman during his cross-examination.

However, Msani probed the matter further once the defence had completed the cross-examination. Osman admitted under oath to Msani that she had been privy to Makwakwa’s transcript.

This revelation could be damaging to the state’s case as it could mean the evidence given by Osman could be deemed unreliable and tainted.

Witnesses are generally not allowed to see another witness’s testimony before taking the stand, to make sure their evidence is independent and honest.

“Do you realise the concessions made by the witness [Osman] are quite damaging to you [Naidu]? This is an ethical matter,” said Msani.

Naidu did not deny that Osman had seen Makwakwa’s transcripts.

The trial is set to continue on July 8.

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