Duck and dive attorney nabbed outside court
Handcuffs finally snapped shut around the wrists of Durban attorney Ajay Debba when‚ after “ducking and diving” for two months‚ he was arrested at court on Friday and taken to Westville Prison to serve 30 days for contempt of court.
Debba‚ who has also been suspended from practice by the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society‚ is accused of stealing money from people - many desperate for housing - through bogus property deals.
It is alleged‚ in court papers in matters where his victims tried to get their money back‚ that he took their cash payments for the properties out of his trust account and used the money to invest in get-rich-quick high interest earning schemes.
The law society‚ in its strike-off application‚ says it has received “numerous complaints”‚ one from a man who says he is now living with his five relatives‚ including a pregnant woman‚ in a Wendy house.
Attorney Richard Till‚ who is representing some of the complainants‚ secured a high court order‚ by consent‚ against Debba last year in which he was directed to fully account for the money and repay it.
But he did not cough up.
“We went back to court and got the contempt order against him. In November‚ Judge Gregory Kruger ordered that he serve 30 days‚” Till told TimesLive.
But Debba did everything to avoid going to jail.
Said Till: “After we got the order granted‚ the file went missing. We established that someone took the file from the typist to take it to the registrar. But it never reached her.
The registrar then had to listen to the recording in order to confirm the order. Debba then launched an application to stay the order pending leave to appeal. He failed in both attempts.
“I then invited him to co-operate and present himself willingly to the high court. But he refused to.”
Till then received a tip that Debba was to appear in Durban’s Commercial Crime Court (on related criminal charges).
He asked the Sheriff's office to assist with the arrest‚ but they refused to do so. Till had to secure the services of an advocate to make an early-morning urgent high court application to compel co-operation.
While Debba sat inside court‚ waiting to make a brief court appearance‚ Till‚ a Sheriff and two police officers dispatched by 10111‚ waited in the corridor.
As he stepped out‚ he was handcuffed and taken to the high court for processing before being taken to prison.
The law society’s strike off application‚ which is being opposed by Debba‚ is set down to be heard in the Pietermaritzburg High Court in May.
He will appear in court again on the criminal charges in March.