Mihalik murder: Defence lawyer hints at recusal over alleged lawyer-client privilege breach

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The three accused in the Pete Mihalik murder trial.
The three accused in the Pete Mihalik murder trial.
PHOTO: Jaco Marais, Netwerk24
  • One of the lawyers in the Pete Mihalik murder trial might recuse himself after expressing concern over the possible violation of lawyer-client privilege.
  • This was while the State was trying to get the identity of the alleged alibi of one of the accused.
  • The accused says he can't get the alibi to come to court.

One of the lawyers in the Pete Mihalik murder trial might recuse himself after he accused the State of possibly violating lawyer-client privilege during the cross-examination of his client about his alibi.

Advocate Cronje Kriel, Vuyile Maliti's lawyer, leapt up when prosecutor Greg Wolmarans asked him when he first told his lawyers about one of his alibis, a gold dealer named "Muhammed".

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Kriel objected and said the State was asking Maliti about a conversation between himself and his client. He said this could violate lawyer-client privilege.

"I may have to recuse myself. If anything is disputed by the witness, then I must testify," he said.

Western Cape High Court Judge Constance Nziweni replied that the prosecutor was simply trying to establish a timeline and added: "Perhaps we are tired".

She told Kriel: 

There is no need to testify, but nobody will stop you if you want to.

Maliti testified that he was at the Spar parking lot in Green Point, Cape Town, the day before the murder, meeting Muhammed to sell gold Krugerrand coins of questionable origin on behalf of his co-accused.

On the day of the murder, 30 October 2018, he was at the same location, meeting another dealer named Baba.

He said those two men were his alibi, but they refused to testify for him as they were scared to come to court. He also could not remember their surnames and did not want to divulge where their gold exchange shops were.

Wolmarans spent the day trying to get the surnames out of him, making it clear that he did not believe the gold deal alibi. However, Maliti would not budge.

READ | Mihalik murder accused says witnesses too 'scared' to testify on alibi

"The State's position is there was no business meeting on the 29th and 30th of October," submitted Wolmarans.

He even offered to subpoena Muhammed at no cost to Maliti so that he could vouch for him. Maliti said he would try his best to convince Muhammed "if God will help me" to come to court to provide an alibi.

"Are we turning to religion now, Mr Maliti?" asked Wolmarans. "Rather than a subpoena, you would rather pray for the witness to come to court?"

Still, Maliti did not budge.

Three accused in the Pete Mihalik murder trial in court
The three accused in the Pete Mihalik murder trial are seen in court.
Netwerk24 PHOTO: Jaco Marais, Netwerk24

Cellphone tower location data from Maliti's phone and the phones of his co-accused Sizwe Biyela and Nkosinathi Khumalo put the three in the area of the assassination, but they said that was just a coincidence because they were busy haggling over Krugerrand prices in a VW Golf in the area.

A traffic stop led to Khumalo being arrested and apparently making a statement of admission, which he later said was fabricated by the investigating officer, the late Lieutenant General Charl Kinnear.

His arrest triggered the arrest of Biyela, and later, Maliti handed himself in. They were charged with murder, the attempted murder of Mihalik's two children in his car and the possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition. They pleaded not guilty.

READ | Second-hand gold dealers never ask questions, says Mihalik murder accused

Khumalo and Biyela testified that they brought 19 gold Krugerrand coins from KwaZulu-Natal for Maliti to fence, and at the time of the murder, they were all in the car negotiating. They also said they had alibis, but they either didn't know their addresses because they were from out of town or, in Khumalo's case, his alibi died.

Maliti said he asked his alibi in January to testify for him, but the case scared him off. He said the case invoked so much danger that his previous lawyer Jannie Kruger and current lawyer Kriel had already been threatened.

Even Marc Orten, to whom he eventually sold the coins at a gold exchange in Kenilworth, "packed his bags and left" when Maliti was arrested.

Accused in Pete Mihalik murder trial sit in court
Vuyile Maliti, Nkosinathi Khumalo and Sizwe Biyela appear in the Western Cape High Court for the alleged murder of lawyer Pete Mihalik.
Gallo Images PHOTO: Jaco Marais, Gallo Images, Die Burger

Wolmarans told Maliti that his gold sales business was not mentioned in his bail application income statement, just his taxi business income.

So, he wanted to know when he eventually told his lawyers about it and, in particular, when he told them about the mysterious Muhammed.

This was when Cronje objected. Maliti said he told the lawyers sometime in 2022.

The trial was postponed to 2 May, when the court would hear whether Kriel intended to take the matter further.

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