Mpisane: what went wrong

2013-09-17 00:00

THE lead prosecutor in the multi-million-rand fraud and corruption case against Shauwn and Sbu Mpisane is accused of a litany of serious misconduct charges, court records show.

Meera Naidu, a senior state advocate based in the KZN Directorate for Public Prosecutions (DPP) Tax Unit office, is accused of withholding evidence from the defence and improperly influencing a lead witness’s testimony.

DPP spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson said yesterday Naidu had been issued with a notice of intention to be suspended without providing details, stating it was an “internal NPA issue”.

Naidu has subsequently been withdrawn from the Mpisane case with immediate effect. She was the lead prosecutor in two of the three matters against Durban businesswoman Shauwn Mpisane which include witness interference and tax fraud. Mpisane, is accused of inflating her company’s invoices by R4,7 million to cut her tax bill.

Naidu was contacted for comment but declined, stating it is “against policy and procedure” for her to do so.

Her possible suspension is linked to an application made by the Mpisane’s advocate, Rafik Bhana, to the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) in July claiming she withheld up to 100 statements from the defence giving them only what “they (the NPA) deemed relevant”.

On July 8 he was recorded telling the court: “I don’t believe we are having a free and fair trial. The NDPP is to review how the prosecution has conducted itself.” By July 22 he said the state’s decision to withhold information was “completely inexplicable” and “should have the gravest consequences” for the state’s case.

Bhana’s basis for the application to the NDPP was further strengthened after Naidu was reprimanded by magistrate Blessing Msani in June 27 when the state’s witness Waheeda Osman, a senior audit official at the SARS Durban office, admitted to having been read the court transcripts of another witness by Naidu, thereby possibly tainting Osman’s entire testimony, which is key to the state’s case.

Her evidence was used as the basis for criminal charges against Mpisane’s company. Osman admitted under examination by Msani that Naidu had allowed her to see testimony given by SARS group executive Mashudu Johannes Makwakwa in November 2012 before she testified, admitting that she had been privy to Makwakwa’s transcript, thereby making her testimony unreliable and tainted.

Witnesses are generally not allowed to see another witness’s testimony before taking the stand, to make sure their evidence is independent and honest.

“Do you realise the concessions made by the witness [Osman] are quite damaging to you [Naidu]? This is an ethical matter,” said Msani. Naidu did not deny Osman saw Makwakwa’s transcripts. 

• In 2008 Naidu successfully prosecuted Durban’s Dr Imraan Mohamed Hassim who had defrauded SARS of nearly R4 million. He was given a sentence of 1 000 hours community service and was required to pay SARS R1,5 million. In 2009 she successfully prosecuted Durban businessman Rohland van Niekerk resulting in a four-year sentence. His export/import business had fraudulently claimed more than R6 million in VAT refunds.

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