Mystery of the missing millions

06 November 2011 - 04:49 By SASHNI PATHER
Cash. File photo.
Cash. File photo.
Image: Reuben Goldberg

GEORGE Michaelides, the attorney who abandoned his Bedfordview practice last week, had allegedly agreed to hand over money to private investigator Kevin Trytsman the day he shot him dead nearly two years ago.

Trytsman, 51, a client of Michaelides, 48, was shot at the lawyer's office in the Bedford Centre on December 4 2009.

Trytsman arrived at the offices around 7am with his friend Tobie Lombard and demanded all his files as he wanted to change lawyers.

It is understood that Trytsman had sent Lombard to fetch documents from his car when Michaelides shot him with his licensed firearm.

Michaelides, who was charged with murder, said at the time he acted in self-defence. The charges against him were provisionally withdrawn, according to National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga.

Michaelides, who is believed to have fled SA with millions in trust fund money, was acting for Trytsman in a civil claim against the state for unlawful arrest.

The case dated to 2003 when Trytsman was arrested and his assets seized in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

In the weeks before he was killed, Trytsman started proceedings to sue for wrongful arrest, among other things, claiming more than R37-million.

In court papers, Trytsman claimed he was "charged with an alleged crime" in which he had no involvement and that he had been unlawfully held.

After his death, Trytsman's family hired attorney Gary Mazaham to obtain Trytsman's will, which Michaelides had drafted.

Mazaham verified a letter in the possession of the Sunday Times that he wrote to Michaelides last January.

The letter states that Trytsman had intended to revoke his last will and testament and had wanted to remove Michaelides as his executor.

Mazaham's letter sheds light on the hours prior to Trytsman's death.

Mazaham said in the letter that Lombard had told him that he, Trytsman and Michaelides had a meeting at a restaurant on the day before the shooting.

"In his presence you [Michaelides] received a telephone call and immediately after having terminated your conversation, you advised Mr Trytsman that the call was from your bank and that you received confirmation of receipt of funds in your trust account to the extent of several million rands."

Mazaham further states in his letter: "It was pursuant to that call and to the acknowledgement of receipt of funds that the meeting was scheduled at your offices for the early morning of December 4 2009, when the deceased was shot."

Mazaham wrote that the meeting was specifically arranged to ensure release of payment.

Johan van Staden, head of members' affairs at the Law Society of the Northern Provinces, said an investigation into Michaelides, who abandoned his practice on October 26, had started earlier this year.

Van Staden said: "We couldn't obtain a full set of records so it will be difficult to quantify how much is missing, but we have been inundated with calls from his clients which suggests that millions have gone missing from his trust account."