SA man held in Madagascar jail for 3 months without trial

2018-12-01 11:37
Chris van Jaarsveld. (Supplied)

Chris van Jaarsveld. (Supplied)

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A South African man has been in prison in Madagascar for three months on what his wife claims are trumped-up charges.

According to Anne Castel her husband, Chris van Jaarsveld, 46, was arrested on August 13 for financial irregularities after his signature was forged on company cheques.

Van Jaarsveld is the managing director of Quality Transmission Equipment (QTE), a company that erects cellphone masts in the country.

Earlier this year, Van Jaarsveld discovered that more than R40m had gone missing over a period of three years when he wanted to pay the wages of his 740 workers in the absence of his financial director.

According to Castel, the company's financial director was "always sick on a Monday" despite being young, a non-drinker and non-smoker.

This forced Van Jaarsveld to "do his job", which led to the discovery of the missing money.

Castel said auditors from South Africa and England were brought in to scrutinise the company's books.

'Too ill to give statement'

Since the money has gone missing, the financial director has fallen ill – too ill to be interrogated by the police, Castel told News24.

In addition, the man's assistant has moved to Dubai and all electronic and hard copies of bank statements have been destroyed.

A case was then brought against Van Jaarsveld by a supplier after one of the company's cheques bounced.

Van Jaarsveld now finds himself in an almost impossible situation, says Castel.

"There is no justice in this country," she told News24.

She says she has to pay every time she visits him in prison, where she says he is being kept in horrific conditions with around 130 other prisoners. This is despite her having paid a bribe to have him moved to a smaller cell.

She has also hired experts to analyse the handwriting on the forged cheques. The signature used was found not to be that of Van Jaarsveld.

No bail, no reason

This evidence did not convince the court of his innocence and Van Jaarsveld was denied bail without any reasons being given.

Andrew Edmondson, CEO of QTE in South Africa, told Sunday newspaper Rapport that it was suspected that the stolen money was used to fund an election campaign in that country. Presidential elections were held in Madagascar on November 7. A second round will be held on December 19.

Castel confirmed this suspicion to News24.

"He is being kept in prison by a powerful person with lots of money and influence."

Van Jaarsveld was holding up despite his circumstances, probably owing to his military background, his wife said. He used to be an officer in the South African air force.

Efforts to contact Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya by telephone were unsuccessful.

Mabaya, however, told Daily Maverick that Dirco was monitoring the case.

"I am sure the judges have a reason [for denying him bail]. Every country has its processes and guidelines on when to give bail and when not to give bail. We can only ask for bail for him until he is given it, and that is what we are doing," he reportedly said.

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