The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was on Monday accused of reneging on a plea agreement in which former Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer pleaded guilty to corruption in exchange for a non-custodial sentence.
"I respectfully submit that there is a reneging on the agreement," Advocate William King SC said in the Western Cape High Court ahead of the sentencing proceedings of Lamoer and five co-accused.
King is not Lamoer's lawyer, but all of the accused entered into similar agreements.
The six accused were alarmed when they noticed that the NPA's pre-sentencing agreement mentioned a minimum of 15 years in prison for a corrupt police official. They thought it meant the NPA went back on its word.
"The agreement on which the pleas were based, the reason why the plea was submitted, was that the State gave an undertaking that they would support a non-custodial sentence," said a furious King, who represents Lamoer's friend, tow truck company owner Salim Dawjee.
Lamoer, who is representing himself after he ran out of money for a lawyer, told Judge Rosheni Allie that he had also not received the NPA's heads of argument for the pre-sentencing proceedings.
"I am totally ill-prepared," said Lamoer, who stood up to speak for himself.
State Advocate Billy Downer said, although the heads of argument referred to the maximum sentence of 15 years for corrupt police officials, the document made it clear that the plea deal was in exchange for a non-custodial sentence for Lamoer.
"I put it on record that the State will not ask for a custodial sentence," said Downer.
He added that correctional supervision was included in the agreement.
Outstanding IPID report
Allie reminded everybody that sentencing was her prerogative, regardless of the plea agreement, or any recommendations she heard.
However, she decided to stand down for a short period for all of the lawyers to discuss "the matter of reneging" and also wanted to make sure that Lamoer received the heads of argument.
She added that she was able to proceed with any witnesses that were ready to testify ahead of sentencing, and, going through a list, said she had received most of the information she had requested regarding the sentencing of corrupt government officials, as well as private companies or individuals.
The only outstanding report was from the on Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) on corruption statistics.
A report was compiled by someone who had been privy to a document on IPID statistics, but she wanted the original IPID document that the official relied on.
Lamoer, Dawjee, brigadiers Darius van der Ross, Sharon Govender and her husband Colin Govender, faced 109 charges, including corruption, racketeering and money laundering involving R1.6m.
Dawjee allegedly gave them money for fuel, clothing and travel costs, in exchange for favours.
Read: Court hears how businessman helped Cape cops with petrol, flights, cars
They had all initially pleaded not guilty.
But in December it emerged that Lamoer might enter into a deal with the State.
In his plea explanation in February, Lamoer said that he entered into negotiations with the State with a view to finalising the trial expeditiously.
'Honoured the agreement'
He had been in the police for more than 35 years, with a previously unblemished record.
Lamoer pleaded guilty to a single charge of corruption in terms of the section of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, which relate to public officers agreeing to accept or offering to accept a gratification.
Lamoer admitted that, while he was in public office, he made loans from Dawjee and close corporations Towbars Cape and Towbars King, during the period December 2011 to September 2013, with the understanding that they must be paid back on request or after his retirement.
"I honoured the agreement after my retirement."
Sharon Govender was acquitted.
Also read: Former Western Cape top cop pleads guilty to corruption charge
After a lengthy period for the lawyers to discuss the unexpected turn of events, they all returned to court and Downer reiterated that the agreements were for non-custodial sentences.
Allie then cleared the court for in camera proceedings at the request of the defence.
Pre-sentencing testimony was expected to include private health and financial details of some of the accused.