Panayiotou trial: Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions in State's crosshairs

2017-09-28 18:02
State prosecutor in the Panayiotou case, Marius Stander. (News24)

State prosecutor in the Panayiotou case, Marius Stander. (News24)

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Port Elizabeth – A Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions found himself in the crosshairs of the State during the Panayiotou trial on Thursday, when questioned about his involvement in the authorisation of a sting operation.

Christopher Panayiotou and his co-accused - Sinethemba Nenembe and Zolani Sibeko - are facing charges of conspiring, kidnapping, robbing and killing Panayiotou's wife Jayde, who was abducted outside her townhouse complex in Kabega Park and later murdered in a field near KwaNobuhle on April 21, 2015. A fourth suspect, Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, the alleged hitman, died before the trial began.

Advocate Selwyn Gounden – who oversees prosecution in the province related to organised crime – was called by the defence as a witness on Wednesday and testified that, contrary to evidence given by the police, he had never given the go-ahead for a sting operation to take place.

READ: Few more witnesses called for Panayiotou defence

The sting operation resulted in the recording of a conversation between the alleged middleman who turned State witness, Luthando Siyoni, and Panayiotou, the admissibility of which was part of a lengthy trial-within-a-trial.

Gounden testified that the police had never approached him, and that, while he could offer advice regarding entrapments or sting operations, he did not have the mandate to authorise such an operation, as this had been delegated to fellow DDPP in Grahamstown, Advocate Malherbe Marais.

Under cross-examination from State Advocate Marius Stander, Gounden told the court on Thursday that he had in fact been approached by a fellow DDPP based in Port Elizabeth, Advocate Indra Goberdan, with regards to the admissibility of a recording relating to the case.

Cellphone records

Gounden said it was his understanding at the time that the sting had already taken place and that Goberdan was asking whether the recording could be submitted without authorisation from the Director of Public Prosecutions.

He said he had not asked about the details of the case, nor did he know who the investigating officer was. Gounden said, after being contacted by Goberdan, he had also asked the opinion of State Advocate Zelda Swanepoel, who worked under him.

ALSO READ: Panayiotou: He spoke about Jayde's murder 'as if he was ordering a hamburger'

Stander then confronted Gounden with cellphone records and a diary entry from Swanepoel which showed that the conversations Gounden was referring to had in fact taken place before the sting operation.

Gounden conceded that this could be the case, but pointed out that he had communicated with both advocates on a regular basis.

Stander said Gounden's request for a second opinion, without any background on the merits of the case, seemed pointless, and pointed out that the diary entry made specific reference to the investigating officer in the case, Kanna Swanepoel, even though Gounden had claimed he did not know who the investigating officer was at the time.

Did conversation take place?

Stander then asked Gounden about a conversation he had allegedly had with Marais, specifically relating to guidelines for the sting, and put it to Gounden that he had, in fact, sought clarity from Marais before relaying the advice back to the police.

Gounden denied that such a conversation had taken place.

Gounden said, even if verbal permission had been given, it was a prerequisite that this be later confirmed in writing, and that no such documentation was on record.

Judge Dayalin Chetty then asked Gounden, should one of the participants in the sting operation have been a willing participant, would authorisation have been necessary, to which Gounden said it would not be.

Advocate Terry Price then asked Gounden about the admissibility, should the willing participant have been assaulted by the police, to which Gounden said it would not have been allowed.

The trial resumes on Friday.

ALSO READ: Surprise witness in Panayiotou case

Read more on:    christopher panayiotou  |  port elizabeth  |  crime

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