Breytenbach hearing: State attorney office head behind ICT tip-offs

Glynnis Breytenbach (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Glynnis Breytenbach (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The head of the Johannesburg state attorney's office was one of the two attorneys who were behind the so-called tip-offs, which led to a meeting with a director of Imperial Crown Trading (ICT).

Kgosi Lekabe allegedly told Kumba Iron Ore's Nortons Attorneys that "someone in the ICT case wanted a section 204 [indemnity]." This is according to evidence led on Thursday afternoon, by advocate Michael Hellens, who was the second witness to testify on behalf of suspended prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach in her disciplinary hearing.

A second attorney who had heard the same rumour, regarding an ICT director, was Ian Small-Smith, according to Hellens.

Hellens testified that Breytenbach told him "Ian Small-Smith called her and told her that he hears that Archie Luhlabo [ICT director] wants to become a state witness and that he is represented by advocate Nazeer Cassim. She told me that she had called Cassim and he said he didn't represent Archie."

Hellens then said: "I was told by [Anthony] Norton that [Anton] Roets had had a discussion with Lekhabe, who had told him that someone in the ICT case wanted a 204. Norton then phoned me."

The NPA has alleged that Breytenbach together with Hellens had attempted to "intimidate" Luhlabo into becoming a state witness in the fraud case against ICT.

ICT attorney Ronnie Mendelow testified last week that Breytenbach's attempt to approach Luhlabo through an advocate Nazeer Cassim had been improper. Luhlabo earlier testified that he had never intended on becoming a state witness as he had not done anything to warrant his needing indemnity.

'A very robust individual'
Breytenbach was suspended in April 2012 for her alleged lack of impartiality in the fraud investigation into Imperial Crown Trading. The company has been locked in a battle with rival miner Kumba Iron Ore's subsidiary Sishen Iron Ore Company over a multibillion-rand stake in the Sishen Iron Ore mine in the Northern Cape since 2009.

Breytenbach was accused of "engaging" Sioc's legal counsel, advocate Hellens, against Imperial Crown Trading in the drafting of affidavits for an application for a search-and-seizure warrant in 2010.

Mendelow wrote a complaint against Breytenbach, to the former head of the NPA Menzi Simelane in October 2011. Earlier on Thursday Hellens described Breytenbach as a "very robust individual" who is "very much her own person".

Hellens started his evidence in chief on Thursday afternoon and told the hearing that he has known Breytenbach for 25 years. He said that she is "thoroughly independent and I have a high regard for her. I would say we are friends." He also noted that Breytenbach was "always fair. But if you trifled with her or if you tried to sell her a lie you would be sorry."

'Overly hostile'
?Breytenbach's advocate Wim Trengove put it to Hellens that Mendelow had earlier testified that both Hellens and Breytenbach had acted "overtly hostile" towards ICT's legal counsel – Mendelow and advocate Edmond Wessels – at a court hearing regarding the ICT and Kumba case in Kimberley.

Hellens rubbished the claim, saying: "First of all, let me make it clear, Mendelow didn't speak to me at all, I haven't actually formally met him. That day I didn't meet him. Edmond Wessels did come up to me, I don't want to go into why – there is a history.

But I have no regard whatsoever for Wessels as a person or as a lawyer and I don't speak to him and he knows that. When he came up to me in a smarmy manner he knew he could not expect an answer. To say I was evasive is arrogance in the extreme because that means that he deserved an answer, but he didn't ask me a question. I was not evading him. I was treating him with disdain."

Hellens also dispute Mendelow's claim that Breytenbach had echoed him when he Wessels he "popped up everywhere". "She didn't echo my answer. I think she spoke to Wessels and said they know each other. There was no evasion." Hellens will continue his evidence in chief on Friday.

Sally Evans

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