Cops say fraud accused's advocate interfering with witnesses

Blue lights case lawyer stands accused

Tankiso Makhetha Investigative reporter
Andre du Plessis, who is representing businessman Vimpie Manthata and his company in the multimillion-rand 'blue lights' case, has been accused of interfering with subpoenaed witnesses.
Andre du Plessis, who is representing businessman Vimpie Manthata and his company in the multimillion-rand 'blue lights' case, has been accused of interfering with subpoenaed witnesses.
Image: 123RF/radututa

A lawyer representing one of the accused in the R191m “blue lights fraud” case in which a number of former high-ranking police officers have been implicated has been accused of interfering with witnesses. 

This was brought to light at the Specialised Commercial Crime Court sitting at the Palm Ridge magistrate’s court by prosecutor Adv Tilas Tshabalala, who read into record an affidavit obtained from one of the lead investigators into the fraud and corruption matter against former acting national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane.

Phahlane, who was in the dock with former deputy national commissioner Bonang Mgwenya, former Gauteng provincial commissioner, Gen Deliwe de Lange, Maj-Gen Nombhuruza Napo, Lt-Gen Ramahlapi Mokwena, Brig Ravichandran Pillay, Brig James Ramanjalum, Thomas Marima, Maetapese Mulaiwa, Judy Rose, Samantha Andrews and businessman Vimpie Manthata and his company, Instrumentation for Traffic Law Enforcement Pty Ltd, faces 392 charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering. 

On their previous appearance the accused launched an application in terms of section 342A of the Criminal Procedure Act, asking the court to investigate delays in the completion of proceedings that appear to be unreasonable.

But the state yesterday responded and said the delays were partly due to the lack of cooperation from witnesses as a result of interference. 

Tshabalala read into record an affidavit by the lead investigator, Col Kobus Roelefse, who is attached to the Hawks. Roelefse said Andre du Plessis, who is representing Manthata and his company, had interfered with subpoenaed witnesses. 

“During my investigations I became aware that Andre du Plessis has deliberately, with the intention to interfere with investigations, had unsolicited contact with witnesses under subpoena. Mr Du Plessis should have known this would create a conflict of interest with regards to his client (Manthata) and he ought to know which rules to follow,” Roelefse said in his affidavit. 

Roelefse said he became aware that Du Plessis was interfering with witnesses when he instructed Stenton Govender, an officer from the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, to serve one of the witnesses, Gregory Sadie, with a subpoena.

“I got a call from Govender and he said he [had] encountered Sadie, Manthata, and Du Plessis. He said Du Plessis took possession of the subpoena, which had details of the case on it, and the accused person was present and this was concerning,” Roelefse said. 

“I contacted Du Plessis and informed him that his conduct was unethical because he was speaking to a witness in a matter that he is representing someone,” he said. 

Roelefse said the witness [Sadie] became hostile and refused to cooperate. 

“We were received with hostility from Sadie, who told us that his clientele consisted of the top 100 of SA’s richest people and politicians,” he said. 

According to the charge sheet, Sadie, who owns Grays Clothing Store in Sandton City, which sells high-end clothes, is at the centre of suspicious transactions between Manthata and Phahlane in which Sadie paid for Manthata and Phahlane’s clothes to the tune of R27,500. 

In his affidavit, Roelefse said David Roy Griffiths, another witness, had initially been cooperative and assisted investigators but became reluctant after being contacted by Du Plessis. 

“The witness was contacted by Du Plessis, who said that he (Griffiths) should not send any affidavit to investigators without sending it to him first. I called him and informed him that he must refrain from his conduct and will report him to his oversight bodies,” Roelefse said. 

Magistrate E Magampa postponed the matter for December 9, when Tshabalala is expected to conclude his heads of argument in the matter. 

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