Judge tells Harksen to get ready for prison

Fraud suspect Jurgen Harksen could find himself back behind bars at the weekend when the protective custody ordered by the Desai Commission draws to an end.

The German was put into a witness protection programme in May this year when he told the commission he believed he was threatened by people who wanted to prevent his testimony.

The order was also issued to ensure he was not deported to his homeland before he gave evidence — a possibility which at that time appeared imminent.

Since then, Harksen has told the commission that he had given more than a million rand to the Democratic Alliance and its Western Cape leader Gerald Morkel — which Morkel and the DA deny.

On Monday, however, commission chairman Judge Siraj Desai said the protection order was applicable only until Harksen’s testimony was finalised.

”Such testimony is now finalised, and the public hearings of this commission will hopefully be concluded on Friday 27 September 2002,” he said.

”To avoid any misunderstanding, I wish to emphasise therefore that Mr Harksen will as of that date cease to be in protective custody… and shall be returned to Goodwood Prison.”

Harksen was jailed in Goodwood following his arrest on charges of fraud at the end of March but claimed someone was leaving sleeping tablets on his pillow there in an apparent attempt to encourage him to commit suicide.

His spell in witness protection, in a safe house presumably in the Cape Town area, led to in controversy when it emerged his police guards had been taking him shopping and wining and dining in venues as far afield as the Southern Cape town of Riversdal.

Harksen is currently applying for bail in the Cape Town regional court; judgment on the extended hearing is not expected this week.

He is also challenging, through a High Court review, the extradition order signed on April 19 by Justice Minister Penuell Maduna.

He had consented verbally to the extradition, but afterwards retracted it.

In addition to the South African fraud charges, Harksen is wanted in Germany on multi-billion-rand fraud and tax evasion charges.

His attorney, Michael Luck, who was not at the commission on Monday when Desai made the announcement about ending the protective custody, said he would have to consult the advocate who had been there for Harksen, William King.

Harksen’s wife Jeanette, who also faces South African fraud charges, is on R25 000 bail.

Earlier on Monday, former DA fundraiser Leon Markovitz declined to tell King whether he had approached alleged Mafia kingpin Vito Palazzolo for donations to the party.

”Whether I approached him or didn’t approach him has got nothing to do with the matter,” he said during cross-examination on his links to Harksen.

King asked Markovitz whether, when he received a sum of DM99 000 (about R396 000) from a person known only as ”Hans”, the thought crossed his mind that the money had come from Palazzolo.

”Certainly not, but I don’t know why I should have thought that… taking a donation from him is not illegal,” Markovitz replied.

Markovitz, the former Western Cape finance MEC, has testified that Harksen himself promised a donation of $75 000 (about R750 000), but never came up with the money. – Sapa

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Ben Maclennan
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