Fidentia's Brown warned by judge
Fidentia Group founder J Arthur Brown could find himself behind bars and forfeiting his R1-million bail if he is not ready for trial in October.
Cape Town High Court Judge President John Hlophe gave Brown a dressing down during a pre-trial conference yesterday for lengthy legal delays.
Brown was arrested for fraud, theft and corruption five years ago amid a media frenzy but has yet to answer to the charges related to the collapse of his company.
More than R1-billion allegedly vanished from Living Hands Trust, which was controlled by Fidentia.
The trust was responsible for making monthly payments to about 50000 widows and orphans of mine workers.
Brown has switched lawyers six times since his arrest. His new lawyer, June Marks, asked for a three-month postponement to prepare for the trial.
"I warn you, Mr Brown, that the trial will have to go on ... you can't keep on playing this trick," said Hlophe.
"This matter has been around for a long time. I am going to add another condition to your bail conditions: that if you are not prepared for trial by October 10 you will forfeit your bail."
Prosecutor Jannie van Vuuren told the court that Brown's "attitude since he was arrested was to avoid going on trial at all costs".
"The accused wanted the case to go away, he wanted it stayed, he failed. He made representations to the National Prosecuting Authority, he failed," Van Vuuren said.
"He chose to use Marks as his lawyer a month before trial. He knows the system, he is playing the system."
Van Vuuren said the trial could take up to six months and that the state would call 30 witnesses to testify against Brown.
After the hearing, Marks said the lawyers who represented Brown before had not done a "thorough job". She said she would call 60 witnesses, including 20 officials from the Financial Services Board.
"There is lot that is missing from the docket because there are statements that the Financial Services Board took a great deal of documentation during a search-and-seizure from the offices of Fidentia.
"The documents are not in the docket. We can only assume that the inspectors of the board still have those documents in their possession," said Marks.