The protracted criminal trial of Tigon kingpins Gary Porritt and Sue Bennett will enter a new phase on Monday when the state’s second witness, forensic expert professor Harvey Wainer, takes the stand.
Wainer, from the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Accountancy, is expected to explain to the court the intricate web of money flows, which could indicate whether the accused benefitted from the missing millions invested in the failed scheme by members of the public.
Porritt, who was CEO of the financial services group Tigon before its collapse around 2002 as one of the top achievers on the JSE, and Bennett, who was a director and in a romantic relationship with Porritt, are on trial on charges of fraud, racketeering and contravention of the Income Tax Act, the Companies Act and the Exchange Control Act.
In an earlier affidavit investigating officer Sandra van Wyk stated that Porritt has direct or indirect access to assets worth more than R100 million, an empire thought to be built on the Tigon spoils, but Porritt as well as Bennett have pleaded poverty and are conducting their own defence.
Porritt’s bail was withdrawn in June 2017 after presiding judge Brian Spilg found that he deliberately failed to attend court. He has been incarcerated ever since.
The accused were arrested in 2002 and 2003 respectively, but the beginning of the trial was delayed until late in 2016 due to a number of applications and appeals brought by the accused. Even then it progressed at a snail’s pace, with both of the accused found to have deliberately delayed proceedings.
Except for interruptions to investigate reasons why first Bennett and the Porritt failed to attend court on occasion, the state’s first witness and former business partner Jack Milne has been on the witness stand the entire time. Neither Porritt nor Bennett have yet finished cross-examining him.
Milne, former CEO of Progressive Systems College, testified that he conspired with the pair to defraud investors by, among other things, making misrepresentations in the prospectus of an investment fund called Progressive Systems College Guaranteed Growth, which was underwritten by Tigon. Both Porritt and Bennett deny this.
Disappearance of R115m
Milne has also implicated both accused in the disappearance of R115.3 million of investors’ money. The flow of these funds is in dispute.
Milne has himself served a term in jail after entering into a plea and sentence agreement with the state for his part in the events.
Bennett only has two days left to finalise her cross-examination after Spilg ruled that she “continues to unreasonably protract her cross-examination of Milne” and thereby has been delaying the proceedings unreasonably.
She, like Porritt earlier, has repeatedly tried to attack Milne’s credibility and show that he was conspiring with the state against her and Porritt.
Spilg assured both accused that the court is fully aware of the fact that Milne is a convicted fraudster and will take this into account when considering his evidence. He advised both of them to rather focus on responding to the charges the state has put against them.
Bennett is expected to be given the opportunity to conclude her cross-examination following Wainer’s testimony, after which Porritt will be allowed to complete his cross-examination of Milne. Porritt earlier indicated that he needs another nine court days.
Spilg previously stated that the case will most probably be decided on the basis of documentary evidence and that the flow of money would be crucial. In this regard Wainer’s testimony could be pivotal.
He is expected to be on the stand for about two weeks. After the accused have completed their cross-examining of Milne, the state will be allowed to re-examine him.
Although not yet confirmed, the state is expected to call a representative of auditing firm PwC next.