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Tigon: Bennett on thin ice, may be referred for observation

Criminal trial may proceed in her absence.
Gary Porritt and Sue Bennett in 2016. Image: Moneyweb

With little real progress made in the criminal trial of Tigon-accused Gary Porritt and Sue Bennett so far this year, Judge Brian Spilg has now issued an extensive order that preemptively deals with possible further delays when the trial resumes on September 8.

This includes the possibility that any of the accused raising health issues for failure to appear or prepare for court as directed may be sent for observation while the trial continues in their temporary absence.

Read Moneyweb’s full coverage of the Tigon case here.

Porritt, the former CEO of financial services group Tigon, and Bennett, a former director, are facing more than 3 000 charges, including fraud, racketeering and contravening the Income Tax and other legislation.

Tigon was a top performing company on the JSE when in collapsed around 2002. Porritt was arrested in that year and Bennett in 2003, but their criminal trial only started in 2006.


The two are representing themselves, saying they cannot afford lawyers, and have been accused of trying every trick in the book to delay the proceedings.

Porritt has been in jail for the past four years after failing to appear in court in June 2017.

Bennett is on bail, but a warrant for her arrest was authorised on July 26 and 27 due to her failure to appear in court, apparently due to health problems. This is normal in such circumstances. The warrants have not been issued and will be cancelled if she attends court on the set dates in September.

The slow progress so far this year is partly due to limited available court days, Bennett’s health problems, and a scare when Porritt was exposed to Covid-19.

Since the beginning of the year the court has only dealt with the admissibility of affidavits and documents emanating from Hong Kong, opposed by the accused. This has to be completed before the next witness, Grant Ramsay, who acted as external auditor for Tigon, takes the stand as the next state witness.

Efforts to prevent further delays

Spilg has now ordered that all parties should be online on September 8 for Porritt to continue his argument opposing the admission of certain of the Hong Kong documents.

Both accused were given clear time limits for their opposing arguments and Bennett has been ordered to prepare written arguments timeously, setting out the exact nature and grounds for her objections.

She will be allowed oral arguments as well, but if she fails to appear in court as the court deals with these documents, she will be referred for observation in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act to determine if she is fit to stand trial.

This applies “should the reason be her inability to attend court by reason of any physical or mental condition” which includes but is not limited to severe depression disorder, convulsion disorder or anxiety disorder.

If she does attend court but has failed to prepare the written arguments as directed, the court will also consider sending her for observation – or, if there is no valid reason for her absence, determine whether she is guilty of contempt of court.

Spilg ruled that the trial will continue in her temporary absence if she is indeed sent for observation.

He further directed her to “conscientiously follow such advice, treatment and medication regime as may be prescribed or recommended by her treating medical practitioners prior to September 7 and thereafter subject to any court determination”.

Clear orders

Spilg gave a detailed order for Porritt to consult with Bennett before the hearing resumes and gave clear directions to preempt any excuse he may have in this regard. This includes raising the matter timeously with Correctional Services or the investigating officer Warrant Officer Sandra van Wyk so that any impediments may be removed.

Porritt must prepare written arguments “setting out in point form” his objections against the admission of certain of the Hong Kong documents, failure of which may limit his opportunity to present oral arguments on the matter.

Before Ramsay takes the stand, both accused must present to the court, in writing, a list of the documents brought by Ramsay they at that stage agree may be admitted, and after his evidence-in-chief they will be given two days to each prepare a further written document, indicating which aspects of his evidence they plan to challenge during cross-examination.

The court will then decide how much time they get for cross-examination.

Medical examination ordered for Porritt

Spilg further ordered that Porritt be examined by Dr Tsitsi, a physician who earlier testified in court about Porritt’s health, with Tsitsi informing the court by September 6 for how many hours per day and how many days per week Porritt, who is in his 70s, should attend court.

When Ramsay takes the stand, Spilg wants the trial to continue in the presence of all parties in the High Court in Johannesburg and has given everybody fair notice, with directions as to by when they should present arguments should they object.

Spilg makes it clear that should either Porritt or Bennett object on the basis of matters concerning their health, they may be sent for observation.

Instructions for the state

Lastly Spilg ordered the state to obtain the audiovisual recording and a transcript of the proceedings of July 26. These will inform his decision whether Porritt is in contempt of court by scandalising the court or the judiciary during those proceedings.

The spotlight will then also fall on Porritt’s utterances in relation to a possible complaint against Spilg at the Judicial Services Commission that may lead to impeachment or other disciplinary procedures and a decision as to whether it amounts to contempt of court, or is unconstitutional or impermissible – specifically since the trial has not yet been concluded.

A previous application for Spilg to recuse himself has been dismissed and leave to appeal was denied.


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How can any citizen of this country have any respect for S.A.’s justice system after witnessing this fifteen year court circus act?
No wonder Zuma ties the “justice system” in knots, year after year, and it responds by allowing him to get away with it.
Porritt and Bennett are the trail-blazers in the circus: Zuma just follows on.

I prefer a situation where the dilapidated criminal justice system struggles to prove the guilt of guilty criminals, rather than the innocence of innocent citizens. We do not have the capacity to drive investigations and execute the law. The judicial commission and the president select judges on subjective political grounds and not on the basis of capability. Those who have the power to select judges have skeletons in the closet and they know they may appear before their chosen candidate. What would you do in such a situation? The system is rigged for incompetence and inefficiency.

I prefer a situation where the dilapidated criminal justice system struggles to prove the guilt of guilty criminals, rather than the innocence of innocent citizens. We do not have the capacity to drive investigations and execute the law. The judicial commission and the president select judges on subjective political grounds and not on the basis of capability. Those who have the power to select judges have skeletons in the closet and they know they may appear before their chosen candidate. What would you do in such a situation? The system is rigged for incompetence and inefficiency.

SA has a “FAKE” justice system.

Upon replying / questioning the Academic writer of the article about the looting “SA in flames: spontaneous outbreak or insurrection?” I asked but did not get a reply. This seems to apply to these two.

To the Journo, thought provoking article, thank you. However a question.

As of the last few years what I am noticing is that not such very smart but evil people are continuously able to disrupt, bypass and sometimes destroy complex as well as tried and tested governance and systems. It seems that these types that are willing to take the risk seem to be getting a favorable bounce from the ball always. What is the main cause of this, have we made systems to complex or soft touch or is it because of a change in mentality. The standard default is to blame the rise of social media for this.

This is going on globally but this current matter is a good example just look the way of Zuma and his son. These two have been in and out of court for the last decade and more but seem to thrive in the judicial system and with public opinion. To me it is very obvious what their intentions are but to a lot of others they seem to their heroes.

Who told us the lie that CRIME DOESNT PAY. It does if you have money. How many looters will go to court…quite a few. How many organizers and people in government will go to jail NONE! they will play the “Porritt game”.

How much has this laugh a minute cost us taxpayers ?

This is Zumagal being written for compulsory reading for final year LLB students.

Is the judge and Bennet both freemasons ? That might explain the hold up.

Just throwing it out there.

The only solution is to ADD the time these shysters have spent in custody to their final sentence (if it ever gets to it).

Our courts, SAPS and NPA are overloaded as it is without crooks like the Tigron Pair and Zupta gang using their Jardyce v Jardyce [see Bleak House] against it.

Besides, their overriding medical condition, kleptomania, cannot be cured, but can only be treated with isolation.

The problem with the Judiciary is the legal profession is literally a law unto itself.

There is ZERO overall supervision of the conduct, efficiency, and above all – effectiveness – of the courts.

Such oversight would properly be best overseen by the CLIENTS of the courts.

And most definitely NOT by the corrupt operators everywhere within the system gaming it all the way to their advantage at the bank.

The Judiciary needs a MAJOR – and Draconian – overhaul – from top to bottom on first principles.

The strongest resistance to ANY Judicial reform or outside supervision comes from the legal profession.

Never trust a party or profession that resists being audited.

Go figure!

As an accountant in public practice for a number of years (30 in September this year) I’m always fascinated by how the system will destroy SMEs and the owners thereof for minor infractions, if any, while individuals such as these two just rape the system to suit them. Approximately three years ago I embarked on LLB studies in an effort try and unravel this mystery. the systems and legislation are top class but an invisible hand play the system in such a way that boggles the mind. We have an excellent Constitution and yet it’s not worth the paper its written on. From the very outset of the new democracy we were more focused on the rehabilitation and basic human rights of downright criminals while ignoring the issue of restitution and fair treatment of victims entirely. This is making a mockery of our judiciary. The legal profession can just as well mothball their gowns and beat themselves with a long stick.

Good on you Corrie1. Absolutely agree, especially with the self-flagellation bit. But, hey some folk might get a rise out of that.

The key role players in the Judiciary need to take responsibility for the incredibly numbing state of affairs vis a vis Bennett and Porritt. Spilg is the Judge, he can exercise control over his court docket. If he allows these games and LONG periods of time in between, then he is sending the message that this case is not a priority. His ‘bosses’ could also step in and demand that the manner in which the case is being handled damages the reputation and standing of the courts. They could help ensure that it is now finally expedited. Clearly, however, the image and pure ineptitude in dealing with / bringing a court case to conclusion is of zero concern to these people.

Sept 8’th will come and there will be further shenanigans and resultant delays with long breaks in between. It’ll just be more of the same.

I think the physician must have told the Spilg that Porritt could only attend court for 6 hours in a day and for 2 days in a 1 week period per 12 month cycle, with a minimum of 9 months between appearances. That is to say, continue as before and don’t stress the accused people who are so desperately hanging onto their ‘innocent’ before proven guilty status.

“Tigon was a top performing company on the JSE”

Journalists keep trotting this out as though Porritt was a business prodigy. Maybe they’re too young to remember. Tigon was an artificial structure and its ‘performance’ was the result of price manipulation.

End of comments.





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