Travelgate MP Booi mum on new defence funds

As his travel fraud case was postponed yet again, senior African National Congress (ANC) member of Parliament Nyami Booi on Friday kept mum on how he had managed to secure funding for a new legal team and a R220 000 audit report.

“Those are previews of client-attorney relations,” he said outside the Cape Town Regional Court. “I don’t get into that one.”

Asked if he had a donor, he said: “No, I don’t have donors. I work on myself.”

Earlier this week his previous attorney, Mario Wilker, sought to withdraw from the case, claiming he was not being paid, and revealing that he had terminated the brief of a senior counsel for the same reason.

However, on Wednesday morning Booi was back in court with a team of two attorneys from the respected Cape Town firm Bowman Gilfillan, who were granted a two-day postponement.

On Friday prosecutor Jannie van Vuuren urged magistrate Michelle Adams to conduct a formal inquiry into the funding saga, saying Wilker was guilty of a serious breach of duty by not telling her that there was, in fact, money available.

“We shouldn’t just leave this as it is and carry on as if nothing has happened,” he said.

The trial was supposed to start on Monday, a date arranged in December last year.

Van Vuuren said there had been a “clear implication” in the conduct of Booi’s counsel in December that there was enough cash to cover the cost of both the trial and the audit report supposed to have been prepared in the intervening months.

Booi’s lead attorney, Athol Gordon, told Adams there was no authority in law that prohibited an attorney from withdrawing under the circumstances Wilker did.

He said he was satisfied he himself was “covered financially” for the trial, and had already engaged an audit firm to produce a forensic report.

No decision had been taken on whether to appoint an advocate for the trial.

Gordon said he wanted a six-month postponement to give time for the auditors to do their work.

Rejecting Van Vuuren’s bid for an inquiry, Adams said she would not venture into Booi’s appointment of a new legal team.

The court could not compel him to appoint a specific attorney.
 
However, she said, Booi had in the past either not taken an interest in the case, or allowed other business to take precedence over ensuring his legal team had sufficient funds.

She postponed the case by a week to June 12, and said on that day she wanted to see a document from the defence confirming it had received all the “further particulars” it required for the trial.

She also wanted documents confirming the appointment of the auditors, and that funds had been reserved for that purpose; giving a time frame for the audit report; saying whether counsel would be briefed and whether funds were available for that; and whether any extra time was needed to consult other experts.

Booi told journalists afterwards: “It has always been clear that there is supposed to be a judiciary process where we test the truth from lies.

“What I enjoy here is that the system is in place in South Africa, where we are engaging each other to resolve matters.”

Booi, a former ANC chief whip in Parliament, is the only one of about 30 MPs who have not entered a plea agreement with the Scorpions.

He is alleged to have misused parliamentary air travel vouchers.—Sapa

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