A private neurosurgeon who examined Tigon-accused Gary Porritt on Wednesday did not give any indication that Porritt is unfit to stand trial and participate meaningfully in the proceedings.
This follows two different physicians in the past week certifying that Porritt is malingering (faking illness). He complained of back and neck pain, and was seemingly unable to walk or sit in court.
Porritt and his co-accused Sue Bennett are standing trial in the High Court in Johannesburg on more than 3 000 charges of fraud, racketeering and contraventions of the Income Tax Act, the Companies Act and the Exchanges Control Act.
This relates to the collapse of around 2002 of JSE-listed financial services group Tigon, of which Porritt was CEO and Bennett a director. The state alleges that the two acted with a common purpose.
Both accused are without legal representation.
Dr Christos Profyris examined Porritt at his clinic at Milpark Hospital on Wednesday afternoon and performed a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.
In his report to the court, Profyris stated that the neurological examination was “unremarkable” and that the MRI showed multilevel disk disease. According to Bennett he explained that this could be as a result of Porritt’s age. He is almost 70.
Profyris further stated that there was a disc extrusion impinging the right C4 nerve root and that this, or myositis (inflammation), could be the cause of the pain.
The neurosurgeon said no operation is necessary. He did not recommend to the court that Porritt’s participation be limited or adjusted in any way and merely gave him a script for two weeks’ Myprodol and something to protect his stomach lining.
Nevertheless, Porritt arrived at court being pushed by an orderly in his ‘executive chair’ on wheels once again on Thursday. Once inside the court he did not crawl down the stairs as on Wednesday, but walked slowly, crouched and supporting himself with his hands on his knees.
He lay on the floor the whole day and hardly made a sound or participated in the proceedings.
Advocate Etienne Coetzee SC for the state pointed out that Profyris did not say anything about the reports of the two other doctors regarding Porritt’s malingering. Those reports stand and the trial should proceed, he said.
Spilg expressed his concern about the statements of the other two doctors.
Bennett continued with her cross-examination of the state’s first witness, Jack Milne.
Milne is former CEO of Progressive Systems College (PSC), a company that started an investment fund called Progressive Systems College Guaranteed Growth (PSCGG), which was underwritten by Tigon.
Deliberate intention to mislead
Milne, who earlier served a term in jail for fraud related to the collapse of PSCGG and Tigon, earlier testified that he, Porritt and Bennett conspired from the outset to defraud investors in PSCGG. According to him they deliberately compiled a misleading prospectus and later falsified the net asset value (NAV) of PSCGG to further mislead investors.
Porritt and Bennett deny this.
Bennett questioned Milne about the documents he provided to the liquidators of PSCGG but failed to provide to her and Porritt.
She also questioned him about her role in the calculation of the PSCGG NAVs. He confirmed that she was not involved in the calculations, but insisted that she knew about them.
She further questioned him about the plea and sentence agreement he reached with the state and why a proper copy of this document is nowhere to be found. She insisted that there is no proof of which charges he admitted to, but could not give an answer when Spilg asked what she believes he admitted to.
Coetzee objected to her cross-examining on the basis of speculation, and Spilg upheld the objection.
Bennett seemed to struggle to formulate her questions in a way that was acceptable to Spilg. He frequently tried to explain to her how to put matters to Milne and repeatedly warned her to stick to issues that are relevant.
The case will continue on Monday. Porritt remains in custody and Bennett was warned to be in court on Monday when she is expected to continue her cross-examination of Milne.