Accountant sues ministers

2012-06-12 00:00

THE former financial manager of Dannhauser Municipality, Ashwin Nair, is suing state authorities for more than R14 million for alleged malicious arrest and prosecution on charges of fraud and theft.

The government departments concerned, however, maintain in court papers that they had a reasonable suspicion that Nair had committed an offence, and that there was a prima facie case warranting his prosecution.

Nair resigned from the Dannhauser Municipality when disciplinary action was instituted against him in May 2004.

The chartered accountant yesterday denied any wrongdoing while employed at the municipality.

He described to the high court in Pietermaritzburg how he was arrested at his home in Westville on August 25, 2004, amid a glare of publicity.

Four years later, in May 2008, the state withdrew charges against him.

The Asset Forfeiture Unit seized all his possessions, including his house and cars at the time of his arrest, and nothing was ever returned to him, he said. He believes his house was sold.

Nair and other former colleagues from Dannhauser Municipality were charged with fraud and theft involving unauthorised loans and other financial irregularities.

Nair has brought an action against the ministers of Justice and Safety and Security and the National Director of Public Prosecutions for a total of R14 250 000

The high court will decide whether the state is liable for damages before dealing with the amount.

Describing his arrest, very early on the morning of August 25, 2004, Nair said he was woken in the dark by the buzzing intercom.

At first he disregarded it, thinking it was people “messing around”.

When the intercom buzzed again he got up and answered it. The investigating officer told him he had a warrant for his arrest relating to matters at Dannhauser Municipality.

Nair said it took him a “few minutes to digest this” and go outside to open the gates.

To his surprise he found his yard lit up floodlights. There must have been about 40 policemen at his gate and other officers in plain clothes.

A large media contingent was present with television cameras filming the events.

When he opened his gates a “stampede” of people came into his yard.

“People just went into my house and started helping themselves to all my belongings. I was told there was a preservation order over my assets which were going to be confiscated.”

Nair said that when he entered his bedroom to take a shower before being taken to the police station he was faced with cameras in his bedroom. This upset him.

He and a colleague were later put into a small cell at Newcastle with about 14 other prisoners who “roughed” them up and took their valuables. The other prisoners “ripped” his gold chain from his neck.

“I fell ill and I couldn’t breathe … I was gasping for breath.

“The warders came and opened up and I went to hospital,” he said.

Nair said that after being treated he was taken to a different cell.

Police to whom they complained about the incident had taken them to retrieve their property.

Nair said his chain had been wrapped in plastic and one of the prisoners “jumped on to a toilet” and removed it from his rectum.

The case is proceeding.

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