State mulls withdrawing fraud charges against McBride

2016-11-01 12:39
Robert McBride. (File)

Robert McBride. (File)

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Pretoria - The State is considering withdrawing charges of fraud and defeating the ends of justice against Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) head Robert McBride and his two co-accused, after failing to produce witnesses to testify at the start of the trial on Tuesday.

Prosecutor Sello Maema told the Pretoria Magistrate's Court that the witnesses the State had intended calling were either unwilling to give evidence or had the view that their evidence would be inadmissible.

Maema then made an application that the matter be postponed to Wednesday so that he could consult with his senior, Torie Pretorius, who is the head of priority crimes litigation unit at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Pretorius would ultimately discuss the matter with NPA North Gauteng Director of Public Prosecutions Sibongile Mzinyathi.

Maema wanted the court to allow him time to meet with Pretorius and discuss the possibility of provisionally withdrawing their case.

He told the court that, even if he issued a subpoena on the witnesses, it would be a fruitless exercise and a waste of the court's time. He pleaded for a day to consult with Pretorius, saying there was a likelihood of a final withdrawal on the cards.

"The point I am trying to make is that when a matter is withdrawn, you don't want that matter to come back. What else can I do when I am hamstrung without witnesses?... a provisional withdrawal may lead to a final withdrawal," he said.

McBride, former director of investigations Matthew Sesoko, and former head of Ipid in Limpopo Innocent Khuba are being investigated by the Hawks' Crimes Against the State (Cats) unit for fraud and defeating the ends of justice. The charges against the trio relate to their investigation of former Hawks head Lieutenant General Anwa Dramat.

Amended report

READ: Judgment in McBride suspension case expected

Dramat was accused of involvement in the illegal rendition of Zimbabwean nationals in 2010.

The findings contained in the last report on the matter, and which McBride signed, exonerated Dramat and differed greatly from an earlier report implicating him in the renditions.

According to a report by law firm Werksmans Attorneys, portions of statements by individuals who implicated Dramat in the illegal renditions and which appeared in the first report, were left out of the second report.

McBride has maintained that the earlier report did not take all the facts into account.

On Tuesday, in response to the State's application for a postponement, lawyers for all three men objected, saying the State had plenty of time to iron out its problems before the trial was set to begin. The trial date was announced in July.

Mike Hellens, for McBride, said the State was compelled to subpoena witnesses to come to court to give their evidence. Whether the witnesses themselves deemed the evidence admissible or not, was irrelevant.

"Never in the history of the law have we ever had witnesses forming the opinion that their evidence would be admissible and giving legal advice to the prosecution that their evidence is inadmissible.

"It's a question of law, which the prosecution should have faced up to a long time ago even when they charged these people."

State's application rejected

He said for the State to tell the court that it was now considering the opinions of the witnesses about the admissibility of their evidence suggested that the State had not done so itself.

All three defence teams agreed with the inadmissibility of the evidence by the said witnesses - who include Ipid as well as SA Police Service officials - and pressed the State to make a decision on how to deal with the matter going forward.

"We have been brought to court to face this inadmissible evidence; we don't want any further postponement. We want to plead and we want to get on with the trial and if there are no witnesses, then there are no witnesses and we will be acquitted," Hellens said.

Magistrate Adriaan Bekker rejected the State's application for a day's postponement but agreed to let the matter stand down until 14:00.

He expressed his annoyance with the fact that the court had set the matter down for the week in order to go ahead with the trial, and that it appeared as though the likelihood of it continuing was low.

This was ultimately a waste of the court's time and resources which could have been allocated to other equally important matters, he said.

Read more on:    ipid  |  robert mcbride  |  judiciary

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