/ 24 April 2008

Fidentia case postponed in Brown’s absence

Fidentia chief executive J Arthur Brown was on Thursday late for a scheduled appearance in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court, on charges that include fraud involving the Transport, Education and Training Authority (Teta).

In the dock without him were co-accused Dr Piet Bothma, Teta’s chief executive, and a newcomer, Jacobus Theart, who is cited in the charge sheet as accused number three.

Scorpions prosecutor Bruce Morrison, SC, assisted by Tersia du Toit, told the court they had called the case earlier than expected and that Brown was not at fault for his absence. He and Du Toit had tried without success to telephone Brown to get him to court sooner.

The case was postponed to July 29 in Brown’s absence.

Morrison said the investigation was almost completed and that there were ”just a few more things to be done”.

He said he envisaged an additional charge to the current charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering, reckless trading and a contravention of the Financial Intelligent Centre Act .

The fraud charge relating to Teta involves more than R2-million.

Theart faces charges of theft involving R800 000 and money laundering. However, Morrison did not indicate to the court how Theart fitted into the picture.

He said both the Cape Town and Randburg courts had jurisdiction to deal with the case, and he would launch an application to centralise the charges so they could all be dealt with together in Cape Town.

In the Teta case, the trio are expected to eventually go on trial in the Cape High Court.

Later, Brown alone stood in the dock of the Cape Town Regional Court, where he is to go on trial on September 15 on two charges of fraud, one of theft and one of violating the Companies Act. These charges relate to his involvement with Fidentia.

In these proceedings, Du Toit told magistrate Wilma van der Merwe that she had furnished defence attorney Asghar Mia with further particulars to the charges.

At her request the case was postponed to May 30.

US arrest stands

Meanwhile, a bid by one of the alleged masterminds in the Fidentia scandal, Steven William Goodwin, to avoid arrest in the United States has failed, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said on Thursday.

NPA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said Goodwin, who was arrested in the US upon arrival from Australia due to an Interpol alert, approached an American court in Los Angeles on April 18 to have his arrest set aside and, alternatively, to apply for bail.

Both applications were set aside, paving the way for South African authorities to finalise an extradition request.

”Our interest remains to have Goodwin to stand trial on South African soil on charges that include theft, fraud and corruption running into millions of rands,” Tlali said in a statement.

The state has until June 6 to conclude the extradition process.

Goodwin has been described as the ”real founder” of Fidentia and has been named repeatedly in a draft indictment against J Arthur Brown. He left South Africa just days before Brown was arrested in March last year. A warrant for his arrest was issued in July 2007 in South Africa.

The draft charge sheet says that at the time Goodwin owned and was MD of a company named Worthytrade 185. Acting as a broker, he initiated the contact that resulted in Teta entrusting promissory notes worth R100,3-million to Maddock Incorporated in April 2003.

The charge sheet says Brown acted ”in the execution of a common purpose” with Goodwin in providing a R6-million bribe to ensure that the Teta board made the investment.

Goodwin is also named repeatedly in the section of the charge sheet that deals with money laundering.

The financial director of Fidentia, Graham Maddock, was effectively jailed for seven years on 54 counts involving fraud, theft, money laundering, contraventions of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act and the reckless or fraudulent conduct of business. — Sapa