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DA councillor ‘mistakenly’ forged a signature because of ‘noisy police station’

The state has rejected claims by Simon Lapping that a “noisy” police station led him to allegedly forge a signature on a court document related to his protection order case. 

In March 2018, Lapping, three years after he became a Democratic Alliance councillor, instituted a protection order against Alberton businessman Nico Niemand, who had worked with Lapping three years prior to expose an alleged R155 000 bribe Lapping allegedly received from First National Bank chief executive, Jacques Cilliers.   

The bribery allegations are contained in a 2015 affidavit by Lapping, who alleged that Cilliers paid him R155 000 to stop speaking about FNB’s alleged fraud.

On Monday, Lapping appeared in the Palmridge magistrate’s court, where senior prosecutor Kenny Ramavhoya said the state rejected his representations that he had mistakenly forged Niemand’s signature. 

After Niemand opened a criminal case against Cilliers in 2015, Lapping wanted Niemand not to use his name or affidavit, because he had been elected as a DA councillor in Ekurhuleni and applied for a protection order to bar Niemand from doing so.

Niemand alleges that his signature was forged in the return-of-service court document by Lapping, who allegedly misrepresented that Niemand had received the Germiston magistrate’s court’s interim order. 

Lapping’s legal team from Gittens Attorneys sent representations to Ramavhoya, asking for the fraud charges to be dropped, saying the state could not prove that their client intentionally tried to forge Niemand’s signature and “defraud the Germiston magistrate’s court”. 

“Lapping deposed to an affidavit … wherein he states that he was requested to sign a document by [a police officer] and that at the time of being requested to sign the document, the charge office was extremely busy and noisy,” the representation reads.  

The document added that, because of the noise, Lapping had mistakenly signed where Niemand’s signature was meant to be, which did not prove intent to defraud the court. 

The state rejected the representations and said it would go ahead and prosecute. Lapping applied to review the decision and indicated in court that he was willing to take the matter all the way to advocate Andrew Chauke, the National Prosecuting Authority’s Gauteng head.

The bribery claims stem from a procedure known as the non-authenticated early debit order system, through which FNB could take money from its clients’ accounts without informing them about it, the Mail & Guardian reported on 3 December. The bank said this is normal practice, recognised by the South African Reserve Bank. “A non-authenticated early debit is the accepted industry practice, which allows qualifying service providers to process an early debit order instruction, in line with a credit agreement.”

Lapping and Niemand had allegedly wanted to expose the bank together when they first met in 2014. 

FNB, on behalf of Cilliers, has denied that Lapping’s affidavit implicated the bank, or that it had committed any fraud. The bank said it was normal for it to assist clients suffering financial strain, which Lapping was apparently facing in 2008. 

“Consequently, any allegations of impropriety are baseless, misleading and false. The bank and/or any of its officials have never been part of any litigation concerning the matter, and law enforcement authorities have found no merit to the allegations.

“The affidavit filed in 2015 makes no reference to allegations of fraud and/or corruption against any of the bank’s officials.”

Lapping will return to court again later this month.

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Khaya Koko
Khaya Koko is a journalist with a penchant for reading through legal documents braving the ravages of cold court benches to expose the crooked. He writes about social justice and human-interest stories. Most importantly, he is a card-carrying member of the Mighty Orlando Pirates.

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