Zondo commission to hear arguments on admission of electronic data

On Thursday, the commission heard how the original hard drive came into the possession of whistle-blowers who have not been named for safety reasons. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

On Thursday, the commission heard how the original hard drive came into the possession of whistle-blowers who have not been named for safety reasons. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

The commission of inquiry into state capture — headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — will continue to hear arguments presented by the commission’s legal team on the admission of electronic data as evidence on Friday.

The electronic data is made up of 300 000 emails that detail the extent of the Gupta family’s role in state capture. It is stored on hard drives that are under the protection of the commission.

On Thursday, the commission heard how the original hard drive came into the possession of whistle-blowers who have not been named for safety reasons.
The pair are being referred to as “Stan” and “John” to protect their identities.

READ MORE: State Capture commission in possession of original #GuptaLeaks hard drive

According to the head of the legal team Paul Pretorius SC, Stan and John needed advice on what to do with the hard drive which led to them approaching human rights lawyer Brian Currin in 2017.

Currin testified about his role in helping the whistle-blowers to flee the country for their safety. He further detailed the process of leaking the emails to the media, blowing the lid on the Gupta family’s intricate network of alleged corruption.

READ MORE: StateCaptureInquiry: Whistle-blowers, clones of hard drives and secret meetings

Currin said he organised funding to get Stan, John and their families out of the country when the emails were leaked in the explosive #GuptaLeaks saga. In his testimony Currin relayed how he was in contact with the Daily Maverick and amaBhungane explaining that he gave them access to some of the emails to aid their investigations into the Guptas. He also told the commission how the Sunday Times newspaper broke the #GuptaLeaks story in May 2017, compromising the safety of the whistle-blowers and forcing them to leave the country sooner than planned.

In March 2018, Currin reached out to the commission in order to facilitate the use of the hard drive for further investigations. The commission was able to recover 99.99% of the data on the original drive with the help of an expert from Europe. The expert then created a forensic image, a more technical term for a copy, which the commission is also in possession of.

The original has been safely stored and the copies are what is being presented as part of the application.

Evidence leader Advocate Kate Hofmeyr told Zondo that the data on the drives may have an impact on future criminal and civil prosecutions so in light of this, the legal team wants to ensure that the data is “secured in its integrity.” 

Hofmeyer submitted in her argument there are parts of the data that are already in the “public domain” through media investigations. This data is referred to by the commission as “A” data and has already been analysed and proven to be relevant to the work of the commission.

Hofmeyr conceded that this data makes up a small part of the complete data set available on the hard drive which is why it would be relevant for the commission to accept the hard drive in its entirety, the “H” data, as evidence.

At the end of the sitting on Thursday, Zondo was unconvinced about the relevance of admitting the “H” data as evidence now before it has been sifted through to determine what will prove as helpful to the commission.

Zondo’s questioned this asking, “How do I make an order admitting all of the data if I don’t know that they are all relevant?”

“There is no doubt that the investigators should go ahead and analyse the components that have not been analysed,” he added.

The evidence leaders are expected to continue presenting their arguments on Friday.

Mashadi Kekana

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