Fidentia kingpin seeks freedom in Pretoria court

An alleged kingpin in the Fidentia asset management scandal, Steven Goodwin, launched an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court on Tuesday to secure his freedom.

He asked the court to set aside and declare unconstitutional a request by the Director General of Justice to United States authorities for his provisional arrest in America.

Goodwin wants South African authorities to withdraw the request. He seeks for them to be compelled not to apply for his extradition, pending the final outcome of an appeal against a South African court’s ruling that the extradition treaty between the US and South Africa was not in force.

Goodwin was detained by US immigration and customs officials after arriving in Los Angeles from Australia on April 5.

He was then arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the request of South African authorities.

Goodwin is presently being held in custody in the US pending extradition proceedings.

A US court last month dismissed his application for the dismissal of the provisional arrest warrant, saying he should raise any constitutional challenge to the South African government’s interpretation of its laws in a South African court.

A Benoni magistrate in July last year issued a warrant for Goodwin’s arrest on charges of fraud, theft and corruption.

Counsel for Goodwin, Hilton Epstein, SC, argued that the request for Goodwin’s provision arrest was unlawful and unconstitutional.

He said the extradition treaty between South Africa and the US, on which the Director General of Justice relied, was not in force and the request for his arrest violated constitutional rights.

Goodwin relied on a Pretoria High Court judgement by Judge Ferdie Preller, who in March this year declared that the extradition treaty had not been incorporated into the law of South Africa and was therefore not in force.

The state is in the process of appealing the ruling.

He accused South African authorities of failing to disclose the judgement when it applied for his provisional arrest, blatantly ignoring the fact that it had no lawful power to even make such a request and failing to acknowledge the Constitution and the rule of law.

The government contended that the extradition treaty was still binding on an international aircraft, even if it was invalid on a domestic plane.

Fidentia chief executive J Arthur Brown was arrested in Cape Town earlier this month on charges of theft, fraud and money laundering.

He later alleged during a court appearance that he had been sexually assaulted by prisoners while on the way back to jail and that his arrest had been unlawful.

Brown is also facing other charges, including fraud involving the Transport, Education and Training Authority, as well as theft and fraud charges relating to the Fidentia scandal.

His former co-accused in this case, Fidentia financial director Graham Maddock, was sentenced to an effective seven years jail after a plea agreement in February. - Sapa

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