'Irregular' approach made to director

2012-08-16 23:02

Pretoria - Prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach and another lawyer made a "highly irregular" approach to an ICT director to turn State witness, her disciplinary hearing was told on Thursday.

"Such a surreptitious attempt to contact [Archie Luhlabo] directly was highly irregular and... amounts to irregular conduct," said Ronald Mendelow, the lawyer for Imperial Crown Trading (ICT).

Luhlabo is a director of ICT.

Mendelow was testifying in Breytenbach's disciplinary inquiry at the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) offices in Silverton, Pretoria.

The NPA said it suspended Breytenbach for failing to act impartially in her investigation of a dispute between ICT and Sishen/Kumba Iron Ore over mining rights in the Northern Cape.

This was after Mendelow sent a letter of complaint about Breytenbach to the then National Director of Public Prosecutions Menzi Simelane on 31 October last year, alleging she favoured Sishen in her probe and had an improper relationship with Sishen's counsel Mike Hellens.

After this complaint was filed, Luhlabo was approached by Nazeer Cassim SC on 10 November 2011.

Cassim told Luhlabo that Breytenbach and Hellens had at separate times phoned him to ask if he represented Luhlabo.

Although not Cassim's client, Luhlabo agreed to meet him.

Cassim told Luhlabo that Hellens said the NPA wanted to offer Luhlabo a deal to turn State witness against ICT.

Mendelow told the inquiry this was "highly irregular" as Hellens should have known that Mendelow was representing ICT and therefore its shareholders, including Luhlabo.

"In relation to anything concerning the litigation, criminal or civil, he should be approached by his attorney," Mendelow said.

Breytenbach's counsel, Wim Trengove asked: "Is that in any discussion? Or specifically for an approach to find out whether he's prepared to turn on all his colleagues who are represented by the same attorney?"

Mendelow said the attorney should always be included. He said to the extent that Breytenbach was involved in approaching Luhlabo "she is equally guilty of professional misconduct".

Mendelow earlier read from his complaint to Simelane that Breytenbach and Hellens attended an application for a search and seizure warrant relating to ICT in the Kimberley High Court in October 2011.

Mendelow said they were "huddled together" and "obviously there on joint business" and looked like a couple.

"We were left in no doubt from what we'd seen that there was an unnaturally close relationship...advocate Hellens was possibly exerting undue influence over advocate Breytenbach."

NPA wants chairperson removed

Earlier, NPA counsel William Makhari said the NPA would apply on Friday for the removal of the inquiry's chairperson Sandile July.

He did not say why the NPA wanted July removed on the ninth day of the hearing.

Trengove said they would oppose the application.

July was appointed as chairperson after Barry Madolo recused himself.

Madolo had granted permission for access to the hearing by the print media.

The NPA later said he had no authority to make the decision.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria later ruled that the media be allowed to attend the hearing.

Breytenbach was suspended as regional head of the NPA's specialised commercial crime unit on 30 April this year.

She has argued that acting National Director of Public Prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba suspended her in an attempt to stop her from prosecuting former police crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli on fraud and other charges.

Breytenbach has pleaded not guilty to all 16 charges laid against her by the NPA.

The hearing continues at 10:00 on Friday when Mendelow is expected to finish his evidence-in-chief.

The application to remove the chairperson would then be heard.