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‘Serious damage’ to 13 accused

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Judge Johann Daffue highlighted this prejudice, relied upon by the applicants in their application

Pictures: Norma Wildenboer and Danie van der Lith

WHILE it was a “sweet victory” for the 13 accused in the Project Darling illicit diamond buying (IDB) case, who yesterday walked out the Northern Cape High Court free men and women after their application for a permanent stay of prosecution was granted, the prolonged case has inflicted “serious damage” to their reputations as credible businesspeople.

Judge Johann Daffue yesterday highlighted this prejudice, relied upon by the applicants in their application.

While Daffue stated that the prejudice of applicants, which is not trial related, played a “relatively insignificant” part in evaluating an application for a permanent stay of prosecution, he still deemed it apposite to highlight.

“No doubt, the public is obsessed with sensation and the media thrive on that. Therefore much publicity is afforded to the prosecution of prominent members of society, while crimes committed by unknown persons hardly reach the newspapers, unless their crimes were directed at prominent citizens,” Daffue stated, before briefly indicating the uncontested prejudice (suffered since their arrests in 2014) relied upon by the applicants as follows:

Ashley Brooks is a registered diamond dealer, whose house was forfeited on application by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU). He had to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which upheld his appeal. Business associates do not want to do business with him and this has had a crippling effect on his business. His legal costs are in excess of R1.5 million.

Patrick Mason is a licensed diamond miner. Several of his deals have been put on hold, including those with key players such as De Beers. He spent more than R2 million on legal fees.

Manojkumar Detroya is a foreigner who has built a career in South Africa but has lost his clients as a result of negative publicity. His legal costs are in excess of R1.5 million.

Komnilan Packirisamy had to pay R346 400 as security for the release of his 20% interest in a family home. According to him, his reputation has been tarnished to the extent that Absa closed all his accounts without providing reasons.

Ahmed Khorani – to date, no witness has been able to attribute any suspicious conduct to him. Advocate Abraham Johannes Botha was unaware of any allegations against him.

Antonella Florio-Poone had to pay R500 000 to the AFU to release her motor vehicle. She paid R700 000 in legal fees. Her diamond businesses have been hampered due to negative publicity.

McDonald Visser could not renew his diamond dealer’s licence as a consequence of the trial. His business came to a standstill. He was earmarked to serve on the board of the Department of Economic Development but he withdrew due to the case against him.

Willem Weenink is a licensed diamond dealer. His father-in-law was a former chief magistrate and the negative publicity had an adverse effect on the whole family. He spent R1.25 million on legal fees.

Sarel van Graaf is a registered diamond dealer. Cash and diamonds to the value of R3 240 000, unrelated to the prosecution, were attached and the uncut diamonds, valued at R505 920 have not been handed back to him.

Carl van Graaf got divorced as a result of the trial. He is a registered diamond dealer and also a mechanic on the mines. As a result of the case, he does not get any work as a mechanic anymore. He is receiving Legal Aid.

Kevin Urry had diamonds valued at R3 million seized, as well as cash. Botha conceded that there was no authorisation granted for his entrapment.

Trevor Pikwane was requested to step down as member of Umnotho Wesiswe, a mining company, due to negative publicity. His bank issued a summons against him and brought a liquidation application against the closed corporation of which he is a member, due to the prolonged criminal proceedings. More than 1 000 carats of diamonds were confiscated and are still in police custody.

Frank Perridge is 67 years old and a registered diamond dealer. He sold diamonds to purchasers in Belgium but since the case started that business has dried up. He is also receiving Legal Aid.