A TRIAL within a trial was held yesterday to ascertain whether a trust deed document pertaining to the Greenwood Property Trust was in its original format.
Attorney Michael Randell and former Greenwood headmaster Patrick Shelver pleaded not guilty to a charge of fraud involving R3.3-million when they appeared in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court. The case involves the sale of school property.
The state alleges that three trustees – Randell, Shelver and the late Henry Lascot – having sold school property for R3.5-million in April 2006, decided to distribute R2.4-million among themselves in June that year.
The main case was due to start on Monday but it was delayed when a trial within a trial was ordered to determine whether a trust deed document was in its original format.
The defence – Advocate Johan Wessels, Danie Oelofse and John Vosloo – contend some pages in the document are missing and they are demanding the originals.
State prosecutor Willem de Villiers maintained the document was in its original format and that there were no pages missing. To strengthen his argument he called assistant master of the High Court in Grahamstown Kurt van der Merwe, who testified that he had joined the office in 2008 – years after the Greenwood Property Trust was filed in 1999.
"When it came to my knowledge, I looked at the trust deed and could not see anything missing. It did not appear that a sentence or paragraph was missing in the document.”
The court also heard that in March 2005 the trustees allegedly amended the trust deed and the beneficiaries were also changed. Wessels said the original trust deed was filed at the master’s office in April 1999 and that the document the state had built its case on was incomplete.
"This document has page 18 missing. The state must present complete documentation. There are no short cuts. The trust deed is the cornerstone of the state’s case,” he said.
Vosloo, for Shelver, also said the original trust deed was pivotal to prove his client’s case. Van der Merwe’s oral evidence was provisionally accepted before the court could give a final verdict on whether the document was original or not. The case continues.