Breytenbach defends receiving outside help

Glynnis Breytenbach says she sought help from Kumba’s advocate because he had the know-how.

Suspended National Prosecuting Authority prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach took the stand in her own disciplinary hearing on 6 February 2013. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

SILVERTON - Assistance to prosecutors in complex commercial cases had become increasingly essential because of strict budget restraints and decreasing skill levels, suspended National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach said on Wednesday.

She took the stand in her own disciplinary hearing yesterday.

Breytenbach was suspended in April 2012, purportedly over her handling of a mining rights case involving Kumba Iron Ore and Imperial Crown Trading.

The veteran prosecutor, however, argues she was suspended was to stop her prosecuting controversial policeman Richard Mdluli, who at the time was being accused of fraud and corruption.

Breytenbach gave several examples of cases in which private forensic consultants had been hired to assist with investigations.

She said there were instances when a fully compiled docket was handed over to the police for prosecution.

"One of the reasons for obtaining assistance from a complainant is the increasingly strict budgetary constraints of both the police and the prosecuting authority.

"Private enterprise has, for want of a better word, poached a lot of people with a lot of skills."

The prosecutor said that applied to both complex commercial crimes and more simple criminal cases.

She explained why Kumba Iron Ore Limited's advocate, Mike Hellens, assisted with the Sishen mining rights case, saying she asked him to brief the investigating officers and help draft applications for search and seizure warrants against ICT in 2010 because he had the knowledge and the know-how.

Applicant Ronnie Mendelow has claimed Breytenbach was biased towards Hellens and his client Kumba during the fraud investigation against his client Imperial Crown Trading (ICT).

Mendelow further argues she failed to carry out her duties in line with the prosecutorial code of conduct by selecting the investigation of ICT over a counter complaint of fraud by the Department of Mineral Resources and ICT against Sishen Iron Ore, a subsidiary of Kumba.

Breytenbach insists she never gave Hellens preferential treatment in any of her cases, just because they had become friends over the past 25 years.