Porritt acts just like Zuma, court finds

Tigon accused gets leave to appeal withdrawal of bail.

Judge Ramarumo Monama on Monday found that former Tigon CEO Gary Porritt (66) is acting like former president Jacob Zuma by delaying his criminal trial “even when there is manifestly no prospect (of success)”.

Monama dismissed Porritt’s fresh bail application in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, saying his criminal trial has the hallmark of the “Zuma Principle”.

Porritt will, however, bring an urgent application in the same court on Tuesday in a further effort to regain his freedom.

Monama said Porritt was standing trial on extremely serious charges, including fraud, theft, tax evasion, contravention of the Exchange Control Act, share manipulation and the contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act. It is estimated that several billions of rands are involved, Monama said.

Moneyweb earlier reported that the trial relates to the collapse around 2002 of the JSE-listed financial services group Tigon. Former Tigon director Sue Bennett is Porritt’s co-accused. She is still on bail.

In his ruling, Monama pointed out that Porritt was arrested in December 2002 and was days later released on bail. The bail was finally revoked in July last year, after Porritt failed to appear in court on at least two occasions. He has been in jail since.

The trial court refused Porritt leave to appeal the revocation of his bail and he petitioned the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) for special leave to appeal.

Despite a clear directive issued by the court as part of the case management process that he should wait for the outcome of the SCA process, Porritt proceeded with this fresh bail application on the basis of what he considered to be “new facts”.

Monama, however, found that there was merit in the state’s opposing argument that the fresh bail application was premature, would result in confusion and was, in fact, aimed at delaying the trial.

He found: “This application is an afterthought but, on the whole, demonstrates the strategy generally used by the applicant [Porritt] to delay the trial.”

Monama said the case has been on the court roll since 2006 and has been before the High Court, the SCA and the Constitutional Court.

He quoted the SCA from an earlier ruling in the same case. The court found: “ ….as has been made plain in this court and in the court and the one below, they [applicant and his co-accused] intend to employ every strategy available to them in order to delay the commencement, and thereafter continuation, of the trial for as long as they possibly can.”

Monama stated that the delay in this matter is totally unacceptable. “This case has the hallmarks of the Zuma Principle – to drag the case through even when there are manifestly no prospect” he said.

“These tactics have since become common place in our courts. The delay of some 16 years cannot on any platform be justified.”

He said about 17 judges have, in one way or another, dealt with mostly procedural issues raised by the accused. “The applicant is using the old well-known tricks to cause a delay. The applicant is now representing himself. He has dismissed the attorneys from the case and hopefully they will never reappear at any future convenient time.”

He said that the state has clearly listed instances when Porritt adopted a “negative and demeaning attitude” towards the bench and the prosecution. “Such tactics reflect negatively on our justice system and deserved to be rooted out,” he commented.

Outside court, Porritt’s attorney Frank Cohen told Moneyweb that the SCA has granted Porritt special leave to appeal the revocation of his bail. This will be heard at a later date by a full bench of the High Court.

In anticipation of the that hearing, Porritt will on Tuesday bring an urgent application to have the order of trial judge Brian Spilg, who finally revoked his bail, suspended. If the court grants this application, Porritt will be once again released on bail.

Porritt has lost a significant amount of weight since his arrest in June last year. During his last few appearances in court he however appeared well. He seemed to be following proceedings properly and was apparently able to participate meaningfully.

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