Former Tigon CEO Gary Porritt on Tuesday spent his last night in the cells at Johannesburg Central police station, whereafter he will be accommodated in the hospital ward of the Johannesburg prison, also known as Sun City.
Porritt and his co-accused, former Tigon executive Sue Bennett are on trial on more than 3 000 charges of fraud, theft, racketeering and contravention of financial legislation. The charges relate to the collapse of JSE-listed financial services company Tigon around 2002.
The High Court in Johannesburg where the case is being heard is currently engaged in an enquiry into Porritt’s failure to attend court on two occasions earlier this month.
Judge Brian Spilg provisionally withdrew Porritt’s bail and ordered his arrest on June 19, whereafter he was brought to court. He has since been in custody.
On Tuesday morning he ordered that Porritt’s leg-irons be removed while he is in court.
Spilg warned all parties repeatedly on Tuesday that delays in the current enquiry would result in Porritt remaining in custody for longer. He further warned that if the court finds within the next 14 days that Porritt’s absence from court was by his design, the provisional order to revoke his bail and detain him might become final. That would mean that Porritt would forfeit his R800 000 bail and would have to remain in custody until the end of the trial or until another bail application is brought.
Porritt took to the stand on Tuesday and testified how he fainted three times within 30 minutes on June 9.
He told the court that he lives alone in Pietermaritzburg and that on the evening in question he went to the Keg restaurant around 20:00. He enjoyed a glass of wine and a big eisbein. He started feeling lightheaded and went to the bathroom. “Next thing I knew I felt a helluva crack on my head,” he said, explaining that he apparently fainted and hit his head on the concrete floor.
He went back to the bar where he told a friend about the incident.
Shortly thereafter he “tipped over backwards” from where he was sitting on a barstool. When he came to a lot of people were standing over him and he was told that he was unconscious for several minutes and lay twitching on the ground. “Some patrons thought I had an epileptic fit,” he told the court.
Porritt said he realised something was drastically wrong, paid his bill and left. When he reached his car he felt dizzy once more. He passed out again and was assisted by a car guard and somebody else.
After the first episode he recovered quickly and completely, Porrit said. After the second he said he was very tired with muscle fatigue “as if I was running the Comrades without any training”.
After the third incident “my body was broken and my mental faculties impaired,” Porritt told the court. He couldn’t drive his car and battled to give directions to the person who did.
He said when he got home he was unable to walk and crawled up the stairs.
People asked him why he didn’t go to a hospital right away, but he has a phobia of hospitals, he said. “I just felt like a homing pigeon and wanted to get to my bed,” he said.
The next morning he felt “as if a herd of cattle had trampled over me”, Porritt told the court. He said his whole body was aching. He stayed in bed.
Around midday Bennett phoned him from her home in Knysna and upon hearing his voice knew something was wrong. She convinced him to call his estranged wife who came and took him to the local Mediclinic emergency room.
He was unable to fill in the forms for his admittance, Porritt said. He was examined and put on drips. He told the female doctor on duty that he had to travel to Johannesburg the next day for business, feeling it was unnecessary to disclose that he was in fact due to appear in court on Monday June 12.
Porritt said the doctor responded: “No, no, no, no! That is not going to happen.” He did not know what her name was.
She referred him to a Dr Inglis, an emergency specialist, who also said he shouldn’t travel the next day and referred him to Dr Mugabi, a cardiologist.
Porritt saw Mugabi for the first time around 23:00 on June 10 and underwent several tests. He stayed in hospital that night.
He is expected to continue his testimony on Wednesday.
Spilg has issued subpoenas for Dr Mugabi, a Dr Brown and Dr Narushni Pillay, a psychiatrist, to come to court with all their notes and records regarding Porritt and testify about his condition.
Mugabi is expected to testify on Thursday. Pillay was initially unwilling to come to court and Spilg issued a warrant for her arrest to be executed unless she presents herself at court on Friday. Dr Brown is currently overseas and is not immediately available to testify.
Bennett is still on bail and was warned to be at court on Wednesday. Porritt remains in custody and will continue his testimony on Wednesday.
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