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R160-million investment scam trial still struggling to get going after 10 years

02 December 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Author: Ernest Mabuza
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Author: Ernest Mabuza (Times Live)

KwaZulu-Natal businessman Gary Porritt and his former associate Sue Bennett are doing all in their power to avoid answering the more than 3000 criminal charges they have been facing for a decade.

This is according to the South African Revenue Service (SARS), which, together with the National Prosecuting Authority, is opposing the latest bid by Porritt and Bennett at the Constitutional Court.

In an application filed last month, the two accused have asked the court to set aside an October judgment by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), which overturned a Johannesburg High Court order to remove the advocates who were trying them.

Porritt, the former CEO of the now defunct financial services group Tigon, and his former business associate Bennett were served with an indictment 10 years ago.

Porritt was arrested in 2002 after the infamous Tigon/PSC Guaranteed Growth scandal, with allegations that more than R160-million invested in PSC disappeared into Porritt-associated business entities.

The indictment contains over 3000 counts involving contraventions of the Income Tax Act, the Companies Act and the Exchange Control Act, as well as racketeering and fraud.

Porritt and Bennett, who was arrested in 2003, have spent millions of rands on preliminary legal skirmishes to halt the start of their trial.

"As the SCA explained in an earlier judgment Mr Porritt and Ms Bennett ‘intend to employ every stratagem available to them in order to delay the commencement and thereafter continuation of the trial for as long as they possibly can,’” said SARS’s attorney Lerato Mathopo.

She added that Porritt and Bennett must be forced to answer the merits of the charges, rather than raising a multitude of preliminary points.

In October the high court upheld a plea by Porritt and Bennett that prosecutors Etienne Coetzee SC and Jan Ferreira, did not have title to prosecute. Coetzee, a private advocate, was briefed in 2004 to assist Ferreira because of the magnitude of the prosecution’s case against Porritt and Bennett and because of Ferreira’s workload at the Specialised Commercial Crime Unit.

Aggrieved by the high court’s decision not to acquit them after removing the prosecutors, Porritt and Bennett then appealed to the SCA.

They argued that once the high court upheld their plea for the removal of the prosecutors, it should have acquitted them.

However, the SCA overturned the high court decision, retaining the prosecutors.

SARS and the NPA filed their opposing papers in the Constitutional Court last week. The court has not decided on a date to consider the matter.

This article first appeared on timeslive.co.za.


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