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Gem agent to be paid millions

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"...Jephta threatened to 'seriously compromise the State's case' and even possibly refuse to testify in court if the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) did not make a promised payment of R4 million to him"

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PLANS are under way to pay the undercover agent involved in the multimillion-rand Project Darling illicit diamond buying (IDB) case, Linton Jephta, outstanding money (believed to be over R4 million) before he testifies as a State witness, in an attempt to “eliminate the risk of him lying under oath”.

This is according to the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions, advocate Abraham Johannes Botha, who, after more than a week in the witness box, concluded his testimony on Friday.

Botha was called as a witness after the case’s investigating officer (IO), Warrant Officer Louis Potgieter, fell ill while testifying.

On Friday, while under re-examination, Botha was again referred to a statement put to him by advocate Ferdi Van Heerden, stating that using someone like Jephta, “who would lie under oath without blinking for the benefit of money”, as an agent and to promise him
R5 million to entrap targets would be “very dangerous”.

Botha agreed with this statement.

Botha had earlier testified that he heard about the payments promised to Jephta by police, via a newspaper article, published in April, 2016, in which Jephta threatened to “seriously compromise the State’s case” and even possibly refuse to testify in court if the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) did not make a promised payment of R4 million to him.

Jephta had at the time told the DFA that he only received one million rand of the R5 million his “handler” had promised he would receive after the arrests of the accused.

In response to enquiries about the claims made by Jephta, the Hawks at the time indicated that during a meeting with Jephta, it was stated to him that any outstanding informers compensation “would only be submitted after he had testified and the case was finalised”.

During the trial, it emerged that Jephta was paid R1 million after the arrest of the suspects and that a further R4.2 million claim had been submitted for the role Jephta played in the alleged undercover transactions that led to the arrest of the 13 current accused.

However, on Friday Botha testified that “police were working to make Jephta’s outstanding payment before he is called to testify, so as to “eliminate the risk of him lying under oath”, after being asked if any mitigating factors existed to prevent Jephta “lying for money”.

Judge Bulelwa Pakati asked Botha if this meant that Jephta would refuse to testify if he did not get paid, and Botha replied by saying that Jephta could always be forced to testify and that the planned payment before his testimony was aimed at “minimising the risk for lies”.

Pakati said that this statement “did not sit well with her” and left her under the impression that Jephta would lie if he was not paid before testifying.

“My understanding is that if an agent gets paid before testifying, he won’t be lying, as he would when waiting for payment,” Botha said.

Pakati concluded by saying: “It would be the same lie, whether he was paid before or after testimony”.

Potgieter is expected to return to the witness stand when the trial resumes on March 19.