Tigon accused Sue Bennett laid charges against officials of Correctional Services following a scuffle at Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital where her detained co-accused Gary Porritt was taken for treatment.
Bennett and Porritt are standing trial on more than 3 000 charges of theft, racketeering and the contravention of financial legislation. This relates to the collapse of JSE-listed financial services group Tigon around 2001.
The pair were arrested in 2002 and 2003 respectively, but the trial only started last year after being delayed by several applications and appeals they launched in an apparent effort to frustrate the finalisation of the matter.
Very little evidence has been heard so far this year as first Bennett and then Porritt failed to attend court due to alleged illness. Porritt alleged that he fainted three times in the space of 30 minutes on June 9. He was arrested later in June and his bail finally revoked in July after the court found on the basis of medical evidence there was no good reason for his absence.
He is currently being detained in the Johannesburg Prison and is taken to hospital for treatment and tests from time to time.
Attorney JP Venter from BDK Attorneys told the court on Monday that officials had, a few days before, assaulted Bennett and his colleague Candidate Attorney Casper Badenhorst, threw their cell phones on the floor, confiscated them and pointed firearms at them.
He told Moneyweb the incident occurred on August 16 and that Bennett and Badenhorst laid charges of assault, theft or robbery and pointing of a firearm.
Correctional Services spokesperson Ofentse Morwane told Moneyweb Porritt was taken to the hospital for blood tests on that day, as the court ordered.
He said in terms of the Correctional Services policy inmates are not allowed visitors when taken to a public hospital without the permission of the Correctional Centre.
He said Porritt saw a specialist at the neurology department and was then referred for some tests. While waiting for an ECG to be done, Badenhorst arrived and asked to see Porritt as his legal representative.
Morwane said it was explained to him twice that visits, including legal visits, are not supposed to be conducted at public hospitals without written permission from the head of the Correctional Centre.
“While taking the inmate for admission it was noticed that there was a lady at the corridor taking photographs of the officials and the inmate.” She was told to stop but she continued taking photographs, Morwane said.
“The officials called for backup from the (Correctional) Centre as this was interfering with their work and constituted a security breach.” Thereafter their cell phones were confiscated, Morwane said. “The lady was heard screaming and yelling at the officials, the inmate was taken back to the Centre and the inmate’s appointment was arranged for the following day and he was admitted.”
Morwane denies that the pair were assaulted and said a case was opened against them at the Diepkloof police station for interfering with the duties of Correctional Service officials.
On Monday Porritt was discharged for his court appearance.
Judge Brian Spilg refused an application to postpone the trial “to attend to Porritt’s medical issues”. He pointed out that he had earlier made a ruling that the trial would proceed unless he was provided with compelling medical evidence that Porritt was too sick to stand trial. Spilg emphasised that the trial would take precedence and would not stand down for Porritt to have medical tests or treatment that could just as well be done on days that the court does not sit.
Porritt nevertheless maintained that he was ill and had “multiple collapses” the previous week. On Tuesday he requested permission to lie down on the floor while the trial continues. Spilg refused.
On Thursday morning the court received a report from Dr JML Tsitsi, head of the department of medicine at Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital about Porritt’s medical condition.
According to the report five different doctors had dealt with Porritt, including specialists. Porritt had been admitted and extensive tests performed on him, mostly showing normal results. Tsitsi concluded that Porritt had “no contraindication to being discharged” to attend court this week.
He stated that the issues that still needed treatment or investigation could be dealt with on an outpatient basis and the hospital “will continue scheduling Mr Porritt’s appointments bearing in mind his court commitments and obligations.”
Porritt and Bennett will respond to the medical report on Friday. They have also filed an application for leave to appeal Spilg’s earlier ruling to revoke his bail and this application will be heard on Wednesday August 30.
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