25 March 2023 | 02:47 AM

NPA accuses Kumba lawyer of fabrication

Key Takeaways

The mood at suspended prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach’s disciplinary hearing became tense this morning when counsel for the National Prosecuting Authority accused an advocate, testifying for Breytenbach, of making up evidence.

Advocate Anthony Norton, who represents mining giant Kumba Iron Ore, testified that he had received a tip from an attorney, who he did not want to name, regarding a director of their rival Imperial Crown Trading.

Norton testified that he was told that ICT director Archie Luhlabo had evidence on his company — who is being investigated for fraud in relation to a mining rights application – and that Luhlabo would possible turn state witness in return for indemnity.

The NPA’s Mandla Zulu put it to Norton: “We will argue that this information does not exist, on the basis you don’t want to disclose the name of these informants.”

To which Norton responded, “Are you suggesting I am lying about the evidence I have testified about? It is not a fiction, its a fact. You don’t come here to lie to these proceedings. If the NPA thinks it can hide behind qualified attorney privilege I will sue them all for defamation.”

To which Zulu shot back: “Don’t threaten me.”

Norton explained that the NPA had no “factual basis” for it’s proposition and that the name of the attorney, whom he had dealt with, was confidential.

“The party who disclosed the information about Luhlabo to us may feel it is sensitive and he may not want his identity disclosed,” Norton said.

Zulu then demanded to know why Norton had not discussed the hearing with the attorney, who the NPA has always asserted doesn’t exist.

There was a brief adjournment to allow Norton time to try and call the attorney in question but he could not get hold of him.

Zulu said the information was vital to the rest of his cross-examination.

Background

Breytenbach was suspended in April 2012 for her alleged lack of impartiality in the fraud investigation into Imperial Crown Trading.

The company has been locked in a battle with rival miner Kumba Iron Ore’s subsidiary Sishen Iron Ore Company (Sioc) over a multibillion-rand stake in the Sishen mine in the Northern Cape since 2009.

Breytenbach was accused of “engaging” Sioc’s legal counsel, advocate Michael Hellens, against Imperial Crown Trading in the drafting of affidavits for an application for a search-and-seizure warrant in 2010.

ICT’s lawyer Ronnie Mendelow wrote a complaint against Breytenbach, to the former head of the NPA Menzi Simelane in October 2011.

ICT director Luhlabo was allegedly offered indemnity from prosecution if he cooperated with the Hawks in their fraud investigation into ICT.

Mendelow and the NPA allege that Luhlabo was approached by Hellens on behalf of Breytenbach.

Zulu put it to Norton that Luhlabo was called by an advocate, Nazeer Cassim, and during Luhlabo’s evidence, his version was that “there were attorneys who gave information about him wanting to become a state witness.”

Zulu put it to Norton that Luhlabo had testified that he was approached by Cassim through Hellens on behalf of Breytenbach.

Hellens is expected to testify this afternoon.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.

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INVESTIGATOR:

Aisha Abdool Karim

Aisha is a freelance science and health reporter. She is joining the amaB team to work on a project about water and sanitation. Aisha’s passion for long-form narrative and investigative journalism was sparked while doing her master’s degree at Columbia University in New York. After graduating in 2018, she returned to South Africa and began working as a general beat reporter for the Daily Maverick. Aisha joined the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism in 2020 to focus on science reporting. During her time there, she covered the COVID-19 pandemic extensively — from fact-checking harmful medical misinformation to unpacking the science behind vaccine development. Aisha’s special interests include analysing health systems and in-depth coverage of public health issues and infectious diseases. She also loves spreadsheets and digging through data.

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