Breytenbach DC: Claims of bias 'unreasonable'

Kumba’s lawyer says his friendship with the prosecutor doesn't mean they’re incapable of being fair.

Suspended NPA prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach walks out of the NPA offices in Silverton on 19 June 2012. Picture: Mandy Wiener/EWN

SILVERTON - Advocate Mike Hellens on Friday said it would be unreasonable to say his friendship with prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach affected the independence and impartiality of the multibillion rand Sishen mining rights case.

Hellens was under cross-examination in Breytenbach's disciplinary hearing.

The NPA prosecutor was suspended in April 2012, for her handling of a mining rights case and for allegedly showing bias towards Hellens and his client Kumba Iron Ore Limited.

Breytenbach however claims she was suspended to stop the prosecution of former crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli.

Hellens said there couldn't be a perception of bias in the case simply because he and Breytenbach knew one another and were friends.

"If we square off in a battle, but someone sees us at a braai together; it is absolutely unreasonable to say that those two professionals can't litigate against each other.

Look, he is braaing and the other oke is bringing salt. (The allegations are) nonsense.

The National Prosecuting Authority's advocate, William Mkhari, said the perception was that the state colluded with the complainant - Imperial Crown Trading - to nail the suspect.

Hellens said the reality was that ICT used the facts of their friendship to bring down a good, independent investigation and that a "gullible" NPA believed it.

Earlier, Hellens defended his testimony in Breytenbach's disciplinary hearing.

The high-profile criminal advocate said it was only the third time in 30 years that he had given evidence, and that advocates usually tried to keep out of the dust of conflict.

He said he did not need permission to testify in such a hearing.

"Where an attack such as this is taking place, by attacking Glynnis Breytenbach for behaving improperly, the allegations are made that I also behaved improperly.

"You don't need the permission of a bar council to come and give evidence in that regard."

Mkhari suggested to Hellens that his fame, brought by his media profile, put additional pressure on him.