Fraud-accused doc 'can't pay lawyers'
Pretoria - A doctor accused of defrauding the Compensation Fund out of R700 000 does not have money to pay his lawyers, the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court heard on Wednesday.
As a result the trial of Tebogo Ephraim Kaeletsa, 37, was postponed to February 28, allowing him time to get the money and continue with his current legal team.
"We are unable to represent the accused today," Kaeletsa's lawyer Samuel Molele told the court.
"He has had cash-flow problems at his surgery, but is now employed in public practice at a hospital and earns a salary which he will use to pay for his legal representation."
Molele said his client had wanted to keep his present legal team.
"We have brought to the attention of the State the predicament of the accused."
Granting the postponement, Magistrate Dawie Jacobs said it was in the interests of justice as "everyone should get proper legal representation".
"The request is not unreasonable. It is not in the interest of this court, the State, or the accused to be changing legal representation at this stage. I am satisfied with your submissions."
Kaeletsa's R5 000 bail was extended.
State prosecutor Margaret Thulare did not oppose the postponement.
The Compensation Fund is a public entity run by the labour department, whose duty is to cover the payment of employees who get injured or fall ill from diseases contracted at work. The fund also covers death as a result of these injuries or diseases.
The department claims Kaeletsa, who practised in Pampierstad, submitted forms for patients he claimed to have treated but had not.
In a previous appearance in 2011, Jabu Zwane, an officer from the international business advisory organisation PKF, told the court he had obtained voluntary incriminating sworn statements from the doctor.
PKF was contracted by the fund. Zwane testified in October that the accused was not forced to make statements incriminating himself in the crime.
Molele argued Zwane had threatened his client with arrest if he did not craft the statement in a manner prescribed by him.
Zwane told the court he was at the time acting on behalf of the labour department investigating allegations of fraud against Kaeletsa.
He testified he had not told Kaeletsa the sworn statements he had obtained from him would later be used in court against him.