National

NPA claims Breytenbach leaked info to the media

Sally Evans

NPA integrity management unit senior manager Hercules Wasserman claims suspended NPA prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach leaked information to the media.

Glynnis Breytenbach faces charges for abusing her powers in the ongoing criminal investigation by the Hawks into alleged fraud and corruption in a high-profile mining rights dispute. (Gallo)

Wasserman, who was testifying for a second day, told the disciplinary hearing that media reports relating to Breytenbach's suspension "created a totally false impression of what was happening".

Wasserman said: "A lot of media reports show she was speaking to the media."

His main concern, he said, was the "reputational issue ... certain of these [media] reports indicates that Gerhard Wagenaar [Breytenbach's attorney] and Breytenbach spoke to the media which is contravention of the NPA media policy which impacts on the NPA's reputation."

Wasserman – who was given a brief in December to carry out an internal investigation into Breytenbach after a complaint was made against her by the lawyer for mining company Imperial Crown Trading (ICT), Ronnie Mendelow – on Tuesday testified that the NPA had accessed Breytenbach's emails on their internal server after she refused to hand over her laptop.

According to Wasserman, email correspondence was found which proved Breytenbach showed bias in favour of mining company, Kumba Iron Ore.

Criminal charges
Kumba subsidiary Sishen Iron Ore has been embroiled in a battle with Imperial Crown Trading over a stake in Sishen mine in the Northern Cape. The stake was originally awarded to Imperial by the mineral resources department. Both parties have laid criminal charges against the other.

Breytenbach faces charges for abusing her powers in the ongoing criminal investigation by the Hawks into alleged fraud and corruption in the high-profile mining rights dispute.

Wasserman earlier gave an encyclopaedic description of the NPA's media policies, which included that: "Under no circumstance can an employee present information on the NPA to the media."

Wasserman said: "We felt so very strong about the media coverage and leakage on this case. The NPA have held the argument that this is an internal matter and has nothing to do with the media."

He said his unit became suspicious when they found email correspondence dating back to 2007 between Breytenbach and a Beeld reporter, Sonja Carstens.

These emails, in the main, appear to have been personal emails with one from Carstens asking Breytenbach for help regarding an animal charity. But Wasserman said that these showed a relationship, specifically because Carstens was the reporter writing Breytenbach-related articles for Beeld.

Acting on instruction
He added: "I indicated to Wagenaar that Breytenbach was prohibited [from speaking] to media. I warned him that if [she] speaks to media then it would be perceived that he was acting on her instruction to do so."

Proceedings took a surprising turn before the lunch break, when Breytenbach's advocate Wim Trengove began his cross-examination of Wasserman.

Trengove put it to Wasseman that his unit went on a "trawling mission" through Breytenbach's personal emails in order to "rustle up further charges" against his client.

He said claiming evidence was deleted from Breytenbach's laptop was "reckless and misleading".

"It's a highly incriminating statement to make ... it was reckless and misleading."

Wasserman told the hearing: "A forensic report ... found that certain evidence was intentionally destroyed and deleted from the laptop."

Trengove asked on Wednesday how Wasserman could have known that what was deleted was evidence.

Forensic report
Wasserman said 508 files were deleted, but the forensic report indicated these were not retrievable so it was not possible to know their content.

"You had no basis for your evidence that what was deleted was evidence," Trengove said.

He said Wasserman had not told the hearing that nothing had been deleted from the laptop before April 30 – the day Breytenbach was suspended.

Wasserman stumbled over most of the questions put to him under cross-examination, specifically with reference to an offer Trengove claimed was made by Breytenbach to a "Mr Swart" from the NPA to hand over a mirror copy of her hard drive.

Trengove alleged Swart replied, "No. We can get all that information on the server."

Wasserman eventually conceded that he could not respond as he was unsure of those details.

The hearing continues. – Additional reporting by Sapa

* Got a tip-off for us about this story? Email [email protected]

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.


Topics In This Section

Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus