Breytenbach turns to court

2012-06-02 18:33

Top prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach has turned to the courts in an attempt to overturn her ­suspension by the National ­Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

On Friday Breytenbach, who heads up the Serious Commercial Crimes Unit in Pretoria, filed an urgent application at the ­Johannesburg Labour Court, ­requesting that her “unlawful” suspension be overturned.

Breytenbach was suspended by acting NPA head Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba on April 30 for ­alleged abuse of power in the ­investigation of the politically connected mining firm Imperial Crown Trading (ICT).

The NPA had 60 days to ­complete disciplinary proceedings against Breytenbach.

According to her affidavit “it is now a month ­later . . . and nothing further has been done”.

“It seems clear that there is no prospect of finalising the ­disciplinary ­proceedings within 60 days.”

Breytenbach claims her suspension had little to do with the ICT matter and everything with her involvement in the corruption case against Lieutenant General Richard Mdluli.

She accuses Jiba of using the ICT matter “as an excuse to ­suspend me” and says Jiba’s “real purpose was to stop me from prosecuting a senior police ­officer, Mdluli, on charges of fraud and corruption”.

Breytenbach slams the ICT charges as “spurious”.

“It is not . . . based on any ­evidence of wrongdoing on my part. Even if one were to take it seriously, however, there is no justification for my suspension pending a disciplinary inquiry ­into the complaint.”

In her affidavit, Breytenbach states:
» There was nothing strange or irregular about Advocate Mike Hellens, a private advocate assisting mining firm Kumba – who is the complainant in the ICT case – assisting the state in its ­investigation;

» All prosecutors work closely with complainants and the ­relationship remains “strictly professional”;

» After she was accused by ICT of acting in a biased way, Breytenbach withdrew as prosecutor from the case and referred it to one of her colleagues; and

» ICT complained to the NPA about Breytenbach in October 2011, but she was only ­suspended six months later.

Breytenbach and her ­colleagues charged Mdluli with fraud and corruption in ­November last year. The charges related to the purchase of BMWs – to be used by him and his wife – with police funds.

On November 17, Mdluli’s ­attorney made representations to Advocate Lawrence Mrwebi, in his capacity as head of the ­Serious Commercial Crimes Unit, about why the charges against him should be dropped.

Breytenbach points out in her affidavit that Mrwebi was only appointed to the position by President Jacob Zuma eight days later.

Mrwebi immediately asked for Breytenbach’s response to the representations and requested a copy of the Mdluli docket.

Breytenbach and her colleagues insisted that there was a prima facie case against Mdluli, but on December 4 Mrwebi ­instructed them to withdraw the charges because, according to him, the police had no mandate to investigate crime intelligence.

The Inspector General of ­Intelligence, Mrwebi said, should have done this.

Breytenbach states that this reason for withdrawal was not one advanced by Mdluli’s ­attorney and Mrwebi introduced it himself.

“I submit with respect that ­Advocate Mrwebi . . . is palpably wrong,” she states.

Breytenbach recounts numerous discussions with the office of the Inspector General of ­Intelligence during which she was told the inspector general had no powers to investigate criminal matters.

But Mrwebi persisted in his stance that the NPA wouldn’t ­recharge Mdluli.

Breytenbach states she has ­devoted her career of 25 years to the “fearless and impartial ­prosecution of complex commercial crime without ­regard to the standing and influence of the ­accused”.

“I have come into conflict with the NPA in this case because, I ­believe, it has compromised the most ­fundamental ethical principles of the prosecution service and wants me to do the same,” she says.

The matter is scheduled to be heard on June 25.

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