Business News 12.3.2018 07:49 am

Porritt: Another court, another bid for freedom dismissed

Porritt: Another court, another bid for freedom dismissed

And Tigon accused has to pay state’s cost.

The latest effort of Tigon accused Gary Porritt to be released from jail was dismissed with costs in the South Gauteng High Court on Friday.

The 66-year old Porritt, who claims to be penniless, was ordered to pay the state’s cost in the application, including the cost of one senior counsel and will remain behind bars for now.

Porritt is on trial on more than 3 000 charges relating to several billion rand. He is the former CEO of JSE-listed financial services group Tigon.

Together with his co-accused Sue Bennett, Porritt faces charges of fraud, racketeering and contravention of the Companies Act, Stock Exchanges Control Act and Income Tax Act following the collapse of Tigon around 2002. Bennett was a director of Tigon.

Porritt has been out on bail since his arrest in 2002, but Judge Brian Spilg, who presides over the trial, had him arrested in June last year and revoked his bail a month later, after he failed to appear in court on two occasions.

Porritt has been detained in the Johannesburg Central Prison, also known as Sun City since then.

After the short ruling on Friday he was led out of court in leg irons, looking disheveled and despondent.

Spilg earlier denied Porritt leave to appeal the decision to revoke his bail, but his petition to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) for special leave to appeal was granted. The appeal will be heard by a full bench of the High Court but no date has been set for the hearing.

Judge Ramarumo Monama on Monday March 5 dismissed a fresh bail application from Porritt. He found that there was no new evidence and the application was inappropriate in the light of the pending appeal.

Monama further found that in bringing the application, Porritt acted in accordance with what he called the Zuma Principle, by proceeding with litigation that has little chance of success, in order to delay the trial.

The day after Monama’s ruling Porritt launched an urgent application to have Spilg’s order revoking his bail suspended until the appeal has been finalised. He asked for a declaratory order that would have seen him released from prison and his bail reinstated on the same conditions as before.

Porritt, through his legal representatives, argued that his current incarceration is neither based on a conviction and sentence, nor on a finding that he poses a flight risk. He argued that Spilg’s finding that he failed to appear in court in an effort to delay the trial is highly disputed and in granting special leave to appeal the SCA indicated that his challenge to this finding is reasonable.

In these circumstances his application to have Spilg’s order suspended has merit, he argued.

Porritt relied on the Superior Courts Act, which provides that orders are suspended pending an appeal.

The state however disputed this position and argued that the matter is governed by the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) which precludes such a suspension.

Should the Superior Court Act apply, “an accused person who is a fugitive from justice and intentionally fails to attend court, only needs to lodge an application for leave to appeal and then, according to the applicant (Porritt), this forfeiture order is suspended and the accused person is entitled to his release. This is not and cannot be the case,” the state argued.

It therefore concluded that the matter belongs in criminal court and the civil court where Judge Willem Wepener presided, and which does not have jurisdiction.

Wepener accepted the state’s argument and said if an accused person whose bail was revoked could be released by lodging an appeal, it would defeat the purpose of revoking his bail.

Porritt has no legal representation in the trial. He has told the court that he is broke and cannot afford it.

He had legal representation, including senior counsel in his bail matters. This he said was paid for by one of the various trusts linked to his family.

He has strongly disputed the state’s allegation that he is directly or indirectly in control of assets worth at least R100 million situated in an intricate web of trusts controlled largely by members of his family.

The main trial will continue on March 26, with the cross-examination of the state’s first witness, Jack Milne, who earlier served a jail sentence on the same charges.

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