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Missing evidence sets cops back in Auction Alliance probe

Sapa

Reports say six evidence bags seized from Auction Alliance's offices have disappeared, hampering police investigations.

The police's case against Auction Alliance has been dealt a major blow after evidence went missing. (Delwny Verasamy, M&G)

Six evidence bags containing computer hard drives seized from Auction Alliance's offices in 2012 have disappeared, resulting in a major blow to the police investigation, the Saturday Star reported.

This emerged in a judgment handed down in the high court in the Western Cape on Friday in an urgent application that the auction company lodged in early February.

The application reportedly related to the procedure police should follow when applying for a search warrant.

According to the report, the rest of the evidence, which included more than 100 bags and 21 boxes, had been moved to the offices of auditing firm KPMG for safekeeping.

In handing down the judgement, Judge Owen Rogers said the application had been argued before an acting magistrate, who could not deliver a judgement because his contract was not extended by the ministry of justice.

Torn bags, missing hard drives
The magistrate suggested that the matter be argued afresh before another magistrate. Police then decided to prepare a fresh application.

"Although some of the evidence bags which were previously intact were now found to be torn, this seems to be because their contents were very heavy," Rogers was quoted as saying.

"The real point of concern for [the police] was six evidence bags which had been on the signed handover list could no longer be found ... These bags contained computer hard drives. The police regard their loss as a serious blow to their investigation."

In 2012, country-wide raids were conducted at Auction Alliance offices and the home of its boss, Rael Levitt.

The auction house went to court shortly afterwards to challenge the constitutionality of the search warrants that authorised the raids and to interdict police from viewing the seized material. – Sapa

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