Porritt’s trial after a decade

2014-10-25 00:00

A DECADE after they were first indicted on over 3 000 racketeering and fraud related charges, KZN businessman, Gary Porritt and his assistant, Sue Bennett, are expected to stand trial.

This is in terms of a Supreme Court of Appeals ruling this week which set aside an earlier decision by South Gauteng High Court Judge Lucy Mailula ordering the two prosecutors appointed to conduct the trial, Jan Ferreira and advocate Ettienne Coetzee, to recuse themselves from the case. This was because the court found there was “perceived

bias” on their part.

This was due to Coetzee’s prior involvement in numerous cases involving Porritt and Bennett, or entities to which they were linked, when he was either representing the SA Revenue Services or the NPA.

The complaint against Ferreira was that he’d assisted in drafting an affidavit in support of an application to liquidate a company in which Porritt was involved, and that he was also “tainted” because he supported Coetzee’s appointment to the prosecution team.

This week the SCA dismissed an appeal by Porritt and Bennett, who maintained that they were entitled to an acquittal.

The SCA further ordered that Ferreira and Coetzee be reinstated as prosecutors in the case, and ordered the criminal trial to resume.

The SCA found in its judgment that the role of prosecutors in a criminal trial cannot be equated with that of judges or magistrates because their duties and responsibilities are different.

The SCA said neither Ferreira nor Coetzee were alleged to have conducted themselves in any improper way, and the judges were not persuaded that their previous roles (in cases involving Porritt and Bennett) would result in an unfair trial.

Porritt was arrested in December 2002 and Bennett in March 2003. They were indicted in 2004 to stand trial on more than 3 000 charges of contravening the Income Tax Act, the Companies Act, the Stock Exchange Control Act, racketeering and fraud. The charges arise from the so-called “Tigon/PSC” investment scandal in which thousands of investors — mainly pensioners — reportedly lost around R160 million.

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