Judge Brian Spilg on Wednesday ordered that Tigon-accused Gary Porritt be taken to a private neurosurgeon for a scan. He wants to see the report when court resumes on Thursday morning.
This comes after two different physicians certified in the past week that Porritt is malingering.
He has been complaining of back and neck pain for the last week and has been unable to stand in court and continue cross-examining the state’s first witness, Jack Milne.
Porritt is standing trial on more than 3 000 charges of fraud, racketeering and contraventions of the Companies Act, the Income Tax Act and the Exchange Control Act. He has been in custody for more than a year after Spilg cancelled his bail when he failed to attend court, claiming he was too ill to do so at the time.
Porritt was CEO of JSE-listed financial services group Tigon, which collapsed around 2002, and is on trial together with Sue Bennett, who was a director.
Both accused are unrepresented, claiming they have no money to pay lawyers. The state rejects this notion and alleges that Porritt has direct or indirect access to assets of more than R100 million.
State advocate Etienne Coetzee SC has told the court before that the accused had used legal representation – or the lack thereof – as a legal strategy. In related proceedings, Judge Ramarumo Monama found that Porritt acts according to the Zuma Principle – “to drag the case through even when there are manifestly no prospects” [of winning].
Milne was CEO of Progressive Systems College, which ran an investment fund that was underwritten by Tigon. During his testimony Milne claimed that he, Porritt and Bennett conspired to defraud investors who invested in his fund.
On Tuesday the court started late when Porritt failed to arrive from the Johannesburg prison, also known as Sun City.
He later denied having refused to come to court.
When he eventually arrived shortly before lunch, he was wheeled along by a court orderly in “an executive chair with armrests and wheels”, as advocate Coetzee described it for the record.
The chair was parked inside the court door. Porritt, with his ankles in shackles, got out of the chair and onto the floor from where he crawled down the stairs to the bench in the front of the court where the accused normally sit.
Nobody helped Porritt, who is almost 70 years old. He bundled the jacket he brought with him from prison on his back for the awkward journey.
Before court resumed the staff, under the direction of advocate Coetzee, tested whether Porritt could speak audibly for the record while lying on the floor. There was some discussion as to whether he should lie on his back or his stomach, but the sound test was successful.
After Spilg entered there was a discussion between him, Coetzee and the accused about allegations that Porritt refused to follow the process to see a private physician. Porritt denied this. He also denied that he was malingering and accused one of the physicians who stated as much of not even examining him. He said he would be “in agony” if he could only see the physician by Friday.
Spilg ordered that the state get the necessary forms for a prisoner to be allowed to see a private physician, and that it be filled in right away.
This was to be done during lunch, for which he adjourned the proceedings.
After lunch there was still a lack of clarity about the required process for Porritt to see a private physician, but Bennett indicated that she had found a neurosurgeon who could see him the same day.
Spilg then ordered that Porritt be taken to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, where the neurosurgeon’s clinic is. He emphasised that it is not for admission and said that if the doctor was to decide that Porritt must be admitted, the doctor should be in court on Thursday morning to explain the decision.
At this stage in the trial Porritt was nearing the end of the time Spilg had allotted for him to cross-examine Milne. Spilg has often warned Porritt that he is spending time on irrelevant matters and fails to address material evidence against him.
Porritt has applied for an extension of 60 days to be able to study evidence before he closes his cross examination. Spilg has not yet ruled on the application.
Moneyweb took a cellphone video of Porritt as he left the court in the same laborious manner in which he had earlier entered.
In response to a separate request to Spilg for Moneyweb to be allowed to bring camera equipment into court, Spilg – through his clerk – advised that he is “concerned that in this particular instance issues of dignity now have to be taken into account, hence the need to obtain the view of all the parties, particular Mr Porritt” before giving his approval.
In light of this Moneyweb has decided not to publish the video at this stage.
It is however not the first time Porritt has been seen crawling in court. In June last year Moneyweb published the video below, which later became part of the court record about his conduct in court: