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Fresh admissions in Fidentia graft case

Jan 29 2013 16:50 Sapa
Fidentia

J Arthur Brown faces four counts of fraud, two counts of corruption, one count of money-laundering and two counts of theft. (File, Sapa)

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Cape Town - Former Fidentia boss J Arthur Brown made additional admissions in his embezzlement case in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.

Prosecutor Jannie van Vuuren told the court the time taken to comb through the indictment with Brown on Monday had been "well spent".

Court proceedings were adjourned on Monday to clarify the admissions, which Brown said he made because he wanted to save the court time.

"The accused has made further admissions to certain documents we dealt with," the prosecutor told Judge Anton Veldhuizen.

He handed up a copy of the amended admissions document, that listed eight pages referring to paragraphs Brown admitted to in the indictment.

Brown faces four counts of fraud, two counts of corruption, one count of money-laundering and two counts of theft. He was arrested in 2007 in one of the biggest financial scandals South Africa has ever seen.

The State alleges Brown ran a pyramid scheme and used investors' funds for his personal gain.

The biggest chunk of money that went missing from Fidentia was over R1bn from the Living Hands Umbrella Trust, formerly the Mantadia Asset Trust Company (Matco).

The trust paid money from the mineworkers' provident fund to the widows and orphans of workers killed in mine accidents.

Brown was also accused of soliciting a R200m investment from the state-owned Transport, Education and Training Authority (Teta) by giving Teta CEO Piet Bothma a R6m bribe.

The information that Brown conceded related to the entities Fundi Projects, Antheru Trust, Teta and Matco.

The admissions involving these entities relate largely to movement of money between Fidentia Holdings' bank accounts and that of its clients or service providers.

Brown also admitted to certain aspects of his two theft cases, which were originally called up in the Cape Town Regional Court and later consolidated with the main trial.

On one theft count, the State alleges Fidentia bought the company Infinity, from which Brown stole R5m to pay Fidentia salaries.

In the amended admissions document, Brown admits to issuing an instruction to transfer R5m from the Infinity settlement account to the Infinity current account on January 24 2007.

"On the aforesaid date, the funds were then transferred from the Infinity current account to the account of Bramber Alternative [Fidentia Alternative]... and utilised to pay salaries for employees of the Fidentia group of companies," the document reads.

On the second theft count, Brown allegedly stole R12.6m of Antheru funds to buy the Eastern Cape farm, Thaba Manzi.

Brown admitted the money used to purchase the farm was in fact investors' money held by Fidentia Holdings.

"The farm Thaba Manzi was thereafter transferred into the name of the Farmer Brown Agri 2 Trust. The trust therefore acquired the farms with funds to which it was not legally entitled."

Van Vuuren spent most of Tuesday questioning former Fidentia accountant Graham Maddock, leading him through numerous pages of Fidentia Holdings' bank account records from 2003.

The court heard Maddock would be unable to testify from February 5 to February 11 because of a hip operation and resulting recovery in hospital.

Other witnesses had been lined up for this period.

The trial would resume on Wednesday.

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