Antoinette Slabbert
4 minute read
9 Nov 2017
7:50 am

Porritt’s children might end up paying for his defence

Antoinette Slabbert

Judge points to duty to support ‘penniless’ Tigon accused.

Judge Brian Spilg on Wednesday advised Tigon accused Gary Porritt (66) to discuss his children’s reciprocal duty of care to their “indigent” father with the aim of getting legal representation.

Porritt and co-accused Sue Bennett are on trial on more than 3 000 charges, including fraud, racketeering and contravention of financial legislation. The charges relate to the collapse of JSE-listed financial services group Tigon around 2002. Porritt was the CEO of Tigon and Bennett a director.

The trial only started last year due to repeated delays as the accused brought a number of applications and appeals. They are unrepresented in the trial, claiming to be penniless and unable to afford the services of legal professionals.

Nevertheless, they could get funding for legal representation at crucial times during the trial through trusts connected with Porritt’s family. The mandate of the legal teams was always limited to specific matters, while they remained unrepresented in the main trial.

The state has argued that Porritt uses legal representation or the lack thereof as a strategic tool.

Investigating officer Sandra van Wyk recently alleged in an affidavit in response to Porritt’s bail application that he is far from destitute. She alleged that he has direct or indirect access to R100 million through several trusts. She alleged that Porritt is in fact in control of the funds.

Read: Porritt is a R100-million man, state says

Porritt was arrested in June when he failed to arrive at court and is still in jail. He has not further pursued the bail application that he filed earlier.

He is currently objecting to the admission of all documents the state submits in the main trial as it leads the testimony of its first witness, convicted fraudster, Jack Milne. The basis for his objection is that he has not been able to consult with his legal team, which he says will be appointed as soon as another trial that he is involved in, starts. That will apparently make R15 million available to him for legal fees.

The parties in that case are the South African Revenue Service (Sars) and Surrey Development Trust, of which he and Bennett are trustees, and Synergy Management (Pty) Ltd. The R15 million was to be paid to the Lemax Trust as was determined years ago, but Sars “has been trying to intercede for 15 years”, Porritt said earlier.

Spilg instructed Porritt before to file a proper document setting out the basis for his contention that an order Spilg made on August 30 resulted in a delay in the start of that trial, and therefore the release of the money.

Porritt submitted a hand-written document in response, which he read out in court on Wednesday. Spilg however still has many questions about the matter and asked to study the record of the Sars matter to determine his own alleged role in denying Porritt legal representation.

He advised Porritt to speak to his estranged wife and attorney of record, Frank Cohen, who are the trustees of the Snowdon Trust that his four children are the beneficiaries of. He pointed out that they have a “reciprocal obligation and duty of care” towards Porritt if he is indigent and that Porritt could exercise his right in that regard to get the money for legal representation.

Van Wyk stated in her earlier affidavit that the Snowdon Trust owns 8 500 cattle and 8 000 sheep. It conducts the biggest cattle breeding operation in KwaZulu-Natal, perhaps in the whole of South Africa, she alleged. She stated that, conservatively speaking, the value of the cattle is between R51 million and R68 million and that of the sheep between R8 million and R12 million.

The state disputes Porritt’s contention that Spilg’s order had denied him the opportunity to get legal representation. It on Wednesday handed up an affidavit by Sars official Deon Boshoff, stating that the other case was postponed as a result of an application by Sars and not due to anything that Spilg did.

The fraud trial continued on Wednesday with Milne testifying about several documents that were submitted into evidence. These included correspondence between him and the accused as well as notices to shareholders about the proposed repurchase of Progressive Systems College Guaranteed Growth (PSCGG) shares in November 2002.

PSCGG was an investment fund underwritten by Tigon.

Milne testified that the net asset values quoted in the documents were false as they have conspired to fabricate values systematically since March 13 2001.

Milne was earlier convicted of fraud and has served a jail term in connection with the Tigon matter.

Bennett, whose health had been in the spotlight in court during the first half of the year, collapsed in court about a week ago. She was looking healthy on Wednesday and participated in the proceedings.

Porritt has seemingly lost a lot of weight since he has been incarcerated. He is looking dishevelled, but also participated fully in the proceedings.

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