South Africa 4.10.2016 02:10 pm

Breytenbach ‘was trying to thwart investigation’, court hears

DA member of parliament Glynnis Breytenbach walks in to be sworn in during the first sitting of the 5th democratic parliament in Cape Town, 21 May 2014. Picture: Refilwe Modise

DA member of parliament Glynnis Breytenbach walks in to be sworn in during the first sitting of the 5th democratic parliament in Cape Town, 21 May 2014. Picture: Refilwe Modise

The state prosecutor said Glynnis Breytenbach and her attorney refused to hand over her laptop for months and even threatened to wipe off all information on the device.

National Prosecuting Authority’s head of integrity says he believes the former head of the NPA’s Commercial Crimes Unit Glynnis Breytenbach had refused to hand over her laptop and deleted files to thwart an investigation against her.

Geo Wasserman testified against Breytenbach – now a DA MP – and her attorney Johan Wagenaar, who are on trial in the Pretoria North Magistrates’ Court for allegedly contravening the NPA Act and defeating the ends of justice for their handling of her official NPA laptop.

Wasserman testified that he had first asked Breytenbach to hand over her laptop early in February 2012 after receiving a complaint from attorney Ronnie Mendelow that Breytenbach was not acting impartially in a mining rights case involving Kumba Iron Ore, Sishen and Imperial Crown Trading.

There were also allegations that she had been influenced by Sishen’s lawyer Advocate Mike Hellens.

He said Breytenbach and Wagenaar had been warned repeatedly that it would be illegal not to hand over the laptop and they were also warned that they could not delete any information from the laptop without prior authorisation.

According to Wasserman, Breytenbach had initially told him her laptop was at home and they had agreed that she could get her own expert to make a mirror image of the laptop’s hard drive, but on condition that it was authorised and happened in the presence of an NPA expert.

Wagenaar was supposed to come back to him to arrange a meeting for this to happen, but never did.

He said Breytenbach had also been warned that it was unethical and unlawful for her to hand her NPA laptop to her attorney, as the laptop and the information on it remained the property of the NPA.

He testified that Breytenbach and her attorney refused to hand over the laptop for months and Wagenaar even threatened to wipe all information off the laptop unless they received the letter of complaint against Breytenbach first.

Later on, Wagenaar expressed concern about the protection of Breytenbach’s private information on the laptop, but still refused to hand it over despite Wasserman’s repeated promises that her privacy would be protected.

He said Breytenbach had never during this period expressed concern that information about her private life or sexual preferences would be exposed through her private information.

He testified that an analysis of information on the NPA’s server suggested that Hellens had assisted Breytenbach in the drafting of certain documents, but they still needed her laptop to verify the information.

Her laptop was only handed over after her suspension early in June 2012, after which an analysis showed that a programme had been loaded on to her laptop and that files relevant to the investigation against her had been irrecoverably deleted, he added.

 

07

today in print