Suspended prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach deleted evidence from her work laptop before returning it to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), a witness told her disciplinary hearing in Pretoria on Tuesday (24/07/2012).
"A forensic report... found that certain evidence was intentionally destroyed and deleted from the laptop,” said NPA integrity management unit acting senior manager Hercules Wasserman.
Wasserman told the hearing, at the NPA offices in Silverton, that his unit had set up a meeting with Breytenbach on February 7 to collect her laptop.
Her attorney Gerhard Wagenaar attended the meeting, and they agreed that Breytenbach would be allowed to make a mirror copy of her hard drive to protect her rights, and would hand over the laptop later that day.
Wagenaar instead sent the NPA a letter in which he said they would hand over the computer only when certain conditions had been fulfilled.
"The laptop is the property of the NPA and no employee has the right to issue certain ultimatums,” Wasserman said.
Breytenbach allegedly wanted more information on the charges against her and was concerned about the privacy of information on the laptop.
She then apparently went on leave for about a week, leaving the laptop with her attorney.
Wasserman said she did not inform him she was going on leave or inform him of the whereabouts of the computer.
It was of serious concern that an NPA laptop was in the hands of a third party, especially given the highly sensitive nature of the information on it relating to high profile cases, Wasserman said.
Once Breytenbach returned from leave, her attorney still refused to hand over the laptop until her conditions were met, and later offered to return it only once all the information on it had been deleted.
"[This] would amount to the destruction of information that belongs to the NPA,” Wasserman said.
The NPA then laid a criminal charge against Breytenbach at the SA Police Service’s Pretoria central branch. This matter was still pending, Wasserman said.
His unit obtained Breytenbach’s laptop only when she was suspended, he said.
Breytenbach was suspended as regional head of the specialised commercial crime unit on April 30.
Wasserman said his unit was asked to investigate Breytenbach following a complaint by Mendelow Jacobs Attorneys on behalf of Imperial Crown Trading (ICT) in December last year.
Breytenbach has pleaded not guilty to 16 charges brought against her by the NPA.
Some of the charges relate to her conduct while investigating the Sishen/Kumba Iron Ore and ICT mining rights dispute.
The NPA alleges that Breytenbach acted impartially in favouring Sishen over ICT in her probe.
She has also been charged with gross insubordination and improper conduct for allegedly not handing over her work laptop to the NPA, and for having information on it deleted.
Other charges relate to Breytenbach bringing the NPA into disrepute by speaking to the media, either directly or via her attorney, without authorisation.
She allegedly brought the NPA into disrepute in her Labour Court application, in which she contended that acting national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba suspended her in an attempt to protect former intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.
William Mokhari, counsel for the NPA, said she made these allegations "when you knew that in actual fact your suspension related to your conduct in the Kumba/ICT matter”.
She is also charged with performing work outside the NPA.
On July 18 the Johannesburg Labour Court dismissed Breytenbach’s challenge against her suspension as the judge found no extraordinary or compelling, urgent circumstances to declare her suspension unlawful.
Last year, Mdluli faced a raft of fraud and corruption charges relating to the alleged misuse of a secret crime intelligence fund to buy luxury vehicles.
He also faced a charge of murder relating to the death of an ex-lover’s husband.
These charges led to his initial suspension, but they were withdrawn and he was reinstated before being suspended again in May this year, by then acting police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi.
Mdluli appealed against his suspension in the Johannesburg Labour Court, but it decided that he should remain suspended until he had also filed an application for leave to appeal an interim order — granted by the High Court in Pretoria on June 6, to Freedom Under Law — that he be suspended and not be allowed to do police work. - Sapa