Murdered judge had money troubles
Johannesburg - Acting Judge Patrick Maqubela was in serious financial difficulties at the time of his death, the Western Cape High Court heard on Monday.
Maqubela had numerous bonded fixed properties and a number of vehicles, together worth between R18m and R20m, his financial adviser, Shan Nissiotis, told the court.
Nissiotis was the first State witness to be called at the trial of the judge's widow, Thandi Maqubela, and her co-accused, Vela Mabena.
They both stand accused of the judge's murder.
Maqubela alone is also alleged to have forged the judge's will, and to have fraudulently presented it to the office of the Master of the High Court, a division of the justice department that deals with deceased estates.
For this, she faces charges of fraud and forgery.
Maqubela and Mabena pleaded not guilty to the murder charge before Gauteng Judge John Murphy.
Murphy was seconded to the Western Cape High Court to preside in the Maqubela case, as the deceased judge was too well-known to the Cape judges.
Maqubela alone pleaded not guilty to the additional two charges.
The defence team advocate Marius Broeksma for Maqubela, and attorney Randall Titus for Mabena, confirmed to the judge that their clients realised they faced prescribed life sentences if the court ruled the murder was premeditated and committed in common purpose with each other or as a conspiracy.
Nissiotis told the court that Judge Maqubela had engaged his services to ensure that his family were financially secured in the event of his death.
"He was battling to service the bonds, and the banks were looking to foreclose on the properties," he said.
On one occasion, the judge asked Nissiotis to accompany him to a meeting with an Absa attorney, as Absa had been seriously concerned about the judge's arrears payments.
Nissiotis said his purpose in attending the meeting had been to help the judge "keep the wolves at bay".
He said the judge had been "concerned to ensure that his debts were covered".
In 2008, a life policy taken out for this purpose lapsed due to the judge's failure to pay the monthly premium.
Nissiotis said the judge then wanted a R20m life policy to cover his debts.
If such a policy represented too much of a risk, the insurance company would either decline the proposal or "load" the premium, he said.
In this instance, the insurer accepted the proposal without loading the premium.
The trial continues on Tuesday.