“I want my name cleared … The State must correct its lies. I refuse to keep quiet any longer.”
THE STATE’S star witness and undercover agent in the covert police operation ‘Project Darling’, which investigated allegations of illicit diamond buying in Kimberley and Johannesburg, Linton Jephta, intends to sue the State for defamation of character in a multimillion-rand civil and criminal lawsuit.
Jephta said on Tuesday that he would represent himself in court as he had all the necessary evidence at hand.
“I want my name cleared and any wheeling and dealing must be exposed to the public. The State must correct its lies. I refuse to keep quiet any longer,” said Jephta.
This follows after a plea agreement was entered into with accused number one in the case – Ashley Brooks – last month, while the State agreed not to pursue further prosecution against co-accused Patrick Mason, McDonald Visser and Antonella Florio-Poone.
Brooks confessed to purchasing unpolished diamonds to the value of R9,3 million and was instructed to pay a R10 million fine into the Criminal Assets Recovery Account by 2025.
Thirteen accused, including prominent persons in the local diamond industry – Ashley Brooks, Patrick Mason, Monojkumar Detroya, Komilan Packirisamy, Ahmed Khorani, Antonella Florio-Poone, McDonald Visser, Willem Weenink, Joseph Sarel van Graaf, Carl Steve van Graaf, Kevin Urry, Trevor Pikwane and Frank Perridge – were charged with racketeering, corruption and illegal dealing in uncut diamonds.
Jephta acted as the undercover agent in the operation, where diamonds to the value of R28 million were offered to the accused during 2013 to 2014.
The accused were allowed to walk free when a permanent stay of prosecution was granted in the Northern Cape High Court in September 2018.
The Directorate of Public Prosecutions in the Northern Cape, however, won a court order to reinstate the matter on the court roll after they approached the Supreme Court of Appeal and the Constitutional Court last year.
Jephta believes that his reputation and image has been irreparably tarnished.
“While I risked my life and jeopardised the safety of my family where I was on the receiving end of death threats for my involvement as an undercover agent, I am now being called names such as ‘idiot’ and ‘fool’ in the street,” said Jephta.
“I was made out to be an unreliable witness when the judge accused me of not attending the trial. This is while I was sitting outside the courtroom with the investigating officer, waiting to testify, when he granted the permanent stay of prosecution.”
He pointed out that the State’s case was based on his evidence.
“In this case that was flaunted as the biggest illicit diamond investigation in the history of the country, who is actually playing who?
“As far as I am aware, there are no other witnesses who have come forward to present new evidence or new witness statements that have been drafted.
“It will also be illogical to prosecute the few remaining accused if plea agreements have already been entered into with the other accused.
“I was advised this month that the matter would be placed back on the court roll, although no specific date was provided. No further information has been forthcoming.”
Jephta added that while the accused were free to carry on with their lives, he had been unable to secure permanent employment.
“My life has been placed in limbo for eight years and I have lost a sustainable source of income. I would not have wasted all my time and energy in the investigation or trial had I known this case would take a U-turn. I spent days in consultation with the State prosecutor and was also offered witness protection during the trial.
“It makes no sense for the State to waste so much time, resources and money on the trial and approach the highest court in the land, if they are now suddenly entering into plea agreements.”