Guptas shouldn’t be allowed to cross-examine witnesses, inquiry hears

Ajay and Atul Gupta. File photo

Ajay and Atul Gupta. File photo

Member of the commission’s legal team Vincent Maleka said Zondo will not be able to exercise rules or powers due to jurisdictional restrictions.

An application by the fugitive Gupta family to cross-examine state capture witnesses should be dismissed, member of the commission’s legal team Vincent Maleka argued today.

He said the Guptas cannot be allowed to participate in the state capture commission of inquiry through a video link from Dubai, following their accusations against South Africa’s authorities and labelling them as incompetent.

Maleka urged commission chairman Deputy Chief Justice Raymond  Zondo to dismiss Ajay Gupta’s Advocate Mike Hellens’ application to cross-examine former government spin doctor Themba Maseko and former member of Parliament, Vytjie Mentor. Maleka said Zondo will not be able to exercise rules or powers due to jurisdictional restrictions.

“If we take what their lawyers conveyed to you on face value, and in good faith we arrange that they testify from the venue of their choice, what if they commit perjury in the course of their testimony? You will be left at the mercy of their own evidence…you will have no power to compel them,” said Maleka.

“We know from the recent Constitution Court case of premier of Western Cape vs minister of police, that a commission without the power of compulsion is not worthy of investigating the power entrusted upon it.”

Ajay Gupta, his brother Rajesh and former president Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane Zuma, have applied to the commission through their legal representatives, to cross-examine witnesses.

Hellens told the commission that his client will not return to South Africa and subject himself to “incompetent” police and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). Hellens said Ajay preferred to participate in the commission via a video link.

Maleka rubbished Hellens’ argument and said the brothers’ testimony “will mean nothing” for the commission and the public. A possible expensive exercise of sending investigators to Dubai to interview them was never considered by Ajay, he said.

“You are not dealing with people who are saying they will undertake to bear the extra costs of taking evidence from abroad…they do not even give us an appreciation of what the cost implication of that exercise is. They do not even tell us how the public interest would be served by such process because we know the commission must be public, we would think that type of process is not in the public’s interest.”

As a result of the Guptas having no faith in the country’s legal processes, their situation and approach to the commission was “worse”, Maleka added.

“They do not trust our law enforcement approach, they do not trust that the judiciary will come to their assistance in case there is an abuse of law enforcement process, even though they won cases in country. [Gupta-owned] Oakbay won a case in Pretoria and proclaimed they have faith in this country’s judiciary…what has changed since then? One cannot allow individuals who adopt these inconsistent positions to render the work of the commission useless.”

Zondo asked whether one can run away from a country’s legal system, but on the other hand, want the benefits of that system. Maleka replied that the purpose of the Guptas insistence to cross-examine is to discredit the witnesses’ evidence and ”advance their innocence” through their undertaking to testify from abroad.

African News Agency (ANA)

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