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28 May 2008 17:13
The Scorpions had spoken to the attorney acting for former Fidentia boss J Arthur Brown about a plea agreement, it emerged in the Cape High Court on Wednesday.
And in an affidavit, Brown also revealed that he has been negotiating with some of the major investors in Fidentia for a court action against the curators.
The revelations came in an application by Brown and his wife, Susan, to have warrants for their arrest obtained by the Scorpions on April 3 declared invalid.
Judge Burton Fourie has reserved judgement to June 2.
Brown is in custody after being arrested on fresh fraud and theft charges on May 9, two weeks after his wife flew secretly to Australia with the couple’s two young children. The new charges relate to investment company Antheru.
At the time, Brown had been on bail on two other sets of fraud and theft charges.
According to an affidavit by his attorney, William Booth, Scorpions prosecutor Bruce Morrison promised him (Booth) on April 4 that the warrants would not be executed, that Susan would not be charged at all and that at Brown’s next court appearance the new charge would simply be added to those he already faced.
“At a later date, further discussions took place between advocate Morrison, his colleagues and myself,” Booth said.
“These discussions related to the overall Fidentia charges. The discussions were held on a no-prejudice basis and were ongoing.”
Booth confirmed to the South African Press Association that the talks had been about a plea agreement, and said they were initiated by the Scorpions.
“There were discussions on the go, but nothing was finalised,” he said. “We were listening.”
Asked whether the talks would resume, he said he did not know.
In a plea agreement in February this year, Fidentia’s “deeply remorseful” former financial director, Graham Maddock, got a seven-year jail sentence and R6,3-million fine in return for his future testimony against Brown.
In argument at Wednesday’s hearing, Brown’s advocate, Rashaad Khan, told Judge Fourie the warrants were obtained merely to pressure the Browns into plea-bargaining.
He said the Scorpions had been under an obligation to tell the magistrate who issued the warrants that Brown was already out on bail on other charges, and to explain why it was necessary to secure his attendance at court by arresting him and not by less drastic means.
Advocate Craig Webster, for the Scorpions, said the magistrate was “undeniably” entitled to issue the warrants, and whatever informal agreement was reached on April 4 did not affect the legality of their execution.
The Scorpions’ failure to stick with the agreement was precipitated entirely by Susan’s “furtive and surreptitious” departure, and J Arthur Brown’s complicity.
Brown said in one of the affidavits he filed for the application that Fidentia’s assets were valued collectively at close to R1-billion.
“It is for this very reason that I have been negotiating with some of the major investors to join in an action against the curators to stop them ... selling off the assets at ridiculously low prices,” he said.
“I contend there are no funds missing.”
He said he had been trying to persuade other shareholders and investors to join him in becoming a third curator to monitor and wind up the affairs of the group.—Sapa
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