SCA rules Tigon/PSC fraud case must resume

Businessman Gary Porritt and his assistant Susan Bennett may finally stand trail.

Businessman Gary Porritt and his assistant Susan Bennett may finally stand trail.

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has rejected their bid to have their case thrown out of court. 

Former Tigon chief executive Porritt and his assistant, PSC Guaranteed Growth Fund director Sue Bennett have fought numerous court battles after being accused of luring about 2 000 people, many of them pensioners, to invest in the PSC Guaranteed Growth Fund under false pretences, and face charges of contravening the Income Tax Act, Companies Act, Stock Exchanges Control Act, Prevention of Organised Crime Act and exchange controls. 

They also face charges fraud and racketeering and misappropriation of R150-million from largely pensioners.

The case became widely known as the Tigon/PSC scandal.

The SCA on Thursday ruled that the criminal trial against Porritt and Bennett be allowed to resume in the high court and that two advocates representing the state be reinstated to the case. 

Porritt and Bennett had approached the SCA to throw out their case after the Johannesburg High Court ruled that the two advocates on the prosecuting team be removed because of concerns about bias.  The two accused said they should have been acquitted in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act. 

The SCA held that the section they had raised did not deal with bias, and that both members of the prosecution team Advocate Etienne Coetzee and Advocate Jan Ferreira had not acting in any way improperly during the trail against Porritt and Bennett. 

The court said the law did not require that a prosecutor to be impartial since prosecutors did not decide on the out come of trials. It said it was “inevitable that prosecutors will be partisan”.  

The SCA said what was required, however, was that “they pursue their duties fairly, consistently and expeditiously, and respect and protect human dignity and uphold human rights”.

This court found that no evidence had been presented that Coetzee and Ferreira had in any way contravened those requirements. 

Porritt was arrested in December 2002, along with Bennett on instructions of former National Prosecution Authority prosecutor advocate Glynnis Breytenbach. The case has seen numerous delays and is expected to take some time to be heard. The original indictment against them ran to 1 400 pages and over 3 000 witnesses were expected to testify. 

After five year of dealing with the case, Judge Geraldine Bourchers, who was set to preside over the trial, stepped down in 2011, in effect saying she was no longer convinced of her objectivity. 

The judge who replaced her, Lucy Mailula, ruled that Coetzee and Ferreira be removed. Mailula said she had granted the application for the recusal of both prosecutors not because of proven impropriety against the two but because of a perception of bias or impartiality.  She granted Porritt and Bennett permission to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal.



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