Bird Island 'paedophilia ring': Former minister Barend du Plessis to sue publisher

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Barend du Plessis.
Barend du Plessis.
Alet Pretorius, Netwerk24

Former finance minister Barend du Plessis will be taking legal steps against the publisher of The Lost Boys of Bird Island, in which he is implicated as having participated in a "paedophilia ring" with other senior apartheid ministers. 

According to Rapport, Du Plessis' lawyer, Johan Victor, confirmed that his client intended to sue and said an apology issued by NB Uitgewers last week left "more questions than answers". 

Tafelberg, which published the book, is a subsidiary of NB Uitgewers, which is part of Media24. 

On Tuesday, the book was withdrawn by its publishers, News24 reported.

According to the book - which was co-written by Chris Steyn and Mark Minnie, who took his own life in August 2018 - three former National Party ministers, including strongman Magnus Malan and John Wiley, are named as central figures in a paedophilia ring that operated during apartheid.

Malan and Wiley are deceased.

The third former minister was not named in the book, but Du Plessis publicly stated that he believed he was being implicated.

READ | 'The Lost Boys of Bird Island': Publishers withdraw paedophilia scandal book

'Web of lies'

A statement issued on Tuesday by Victor described the book as a "web of lies".

It added that Du Plessis had hired a private investigator who found a "lack of proper and substantive research by the authors and the publisher".

"The inescapable fact, is that 24 years since the first reports, featuring the same sleazy allegations appeared in some of Media24's most prominent publications, and 32 years since the alleged acts would have occurred, there has been no evidence whatsoever from any of many investigations, that implicates any of the ministers in the despicable crimes alleged in the book," the statement read. 

Following the release of this statement, NB Publishers announced that it had withdrawn unsold copies of both the Afrikaans and English editions of the book from bookshops, and that the e-book had been removed from online e-trade platforms.

Apology

"NB Publishers unreservedly apologises for the publication of these allegations to the extent that they implicate Mr Du Plessis, and for the attendant infringement of his dignity and impairment of his reputation, as well as the emotional distress this caused him and his family," the publisher said in a statement.

"This apology is limited to Mr Du Plessis and does not extend to any other person identified in the book as having played a role in the events portrayed in the book. NB Publishers shall defend any attempt at discrediting the book and its contents in the appropriate forum."

Since publication, investigations into the authenticity of the claims were reportedly conducted by private investigator, Wouter de Swardt, on behalf of the Human Rights Commission; Jacques Pauw, an investigative journalist at Vrye Weekblad and best-selling author; and Derek Watts of M-Net's Carte Blanche.

ALSO READ | Mark Minnie: A sloppy, negligent and careless policeman

'No concrete evidence'

In addition, in an email to publisher Maryna Lamprecht of Tafelberg, sent two weeks before his suicide on 13 August 2018, and four days before the book's publication, Minnie wrote: "We have no concrete evidence that any of the three ministers sexually assaulted any of the victims [mentioned in the book]."

Victor said in a statement last week: "It is clear that the authors, and definitely Mark Minnie, knew full-well that not one single person had come forward claiming to be a victim of the deeds of which the ministers are accused. His writings were false, and completely baseless, which was known to the publishers, prior to the publication of this work of fiction."

According to Rapport, a lawyer's letter dated 25 November 2019, written on behalf of Du Plessis to Media24's legal representatives, made the following demands, among others: a comprehensive apology; a news conference where journalists can put questions to Du Plessis; that a process of the "right to be forgotten" be implemented, which might include a court application, to ensure no further reference be made to the three ministers in terms of the book's content; that compensation be paid to Du Plessis; and that Du Plessis' legal costs be paid. 

NB Uitgewers told Rapport its earlier statement sufficed and would not comment further. 

Steyn did not respond to News24's requests for comment last week. 

- Compiled by Riaan Grobler

UPDATE | Media24 has apologised for the publication of defamatory statements regarding Mr Barend Du Plessis in the books "The Lost Boys of Bird Island" and "Die Seuns Van Bird Island" and for the emotional harm that the publication of the books may have caused the Malan and Wiley families. Follow this link to the relevant apologies.

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