Zunaid Moti goes after his former legal adviser on charges of ‘theft of information’
The former legal adviser to controversial businessman Zunaid Moti — who is said to have knowledge of an allegedly questionable deal — was arrested at Durban’s King Shaka Airport as he was about to board an international flight on Wednesday evening, apparently fearing for his life.
Clinton van Niekerk was arrested on a warrant apparently issued in Sandton earlier this month. The charge was “theft of information”, apparently laid against him by Moti in November last year.
The alleged crime was committed in October.
Van Niekerk was detained overnight at Verulam police station, pending his transfer to Sandton.
The next day his lawyers made an urgent application before Durban high court acting judge Warren Shapiro, obtaining an order interdicting police from taking him to Johannesburg and giving police until Friday to oppose the finalisation of the interdict.
But — in spite of the judge personally telephoning the police station to advise them of the order and it being served electronically and then personally — it was apparently ignored and Van Niekerk was driven to Johannesburg by the investigating officer.
At the hastily convened interdict hearing, former cage fighter and coal tycoon Frederick Lutzkie gave evidence saying Moti was an “extremely dangerous man” and that he had, without cause, had Van Niekerk arrested.
Lutzkie, according to media reports, is embroiled in a bitter legal battle with Moti whom he accuses of ripping him off in an investment in a platinum plant — allegations Moti has denied.
Moti is the owner of Sandton-based Moti Group and has interests in mines, property development, security and logistics. He is heavily invested in a Zimbabwe-based mining company African Chrome Fields.
Van Niekerk, a qualified attorney, was working for Moti as an internal legal adviser.
A source told TimesLIVE he had information on a deal Moti concluded in Zimbabwe.
He was leaving the country for his own safety.
After his arrest, he feared being taken to Sandton where, it is alleged, Moti has police connections.
The source questioned why, if Van Niekerk had allegedly committed the crime in October last year, he was hastily arrested as he was about to board a plane, three months later.
Late on Friday Van Niekerk’s lawyers were back before Shapiro who ordered Van Niekerk’s immediate release from custody.
He also ordered that Van Niekerk’s laptop be returned to him and that the application and court documents be served on the provincial commissioner of police and Ipid.
SAPS did not send anyone to court to oppose the application.
In an affidavit, Lutzkie said while the interdict application was being heard on Thursday, “it was clear the police were intentionally moving Clinton from Verulam police cells and King Shaka Airport cells seemingly with the intention to create confusion to evade the court order”.
He said he had personally made contact with a Lt-Col Philande at the airport SAPS after the order was granted who said the investigating officer, a warrant officer Rabali from Sandton SAPS, had already left with Van Niekerk.
“I further informed him that his conduct was in direct contravention of the court order and the instructions of judge Shapiro. He said he would not take telephonic instructions from the judge and was not in possession of the original court order.”
Lutzkie said he had taken the order to the station and Philande had immediately contacted Rabali and told him about the order and to do a “U-turn”. Rabali allegedly defied this instruction.
The action station commander at Sandton was contacted but “seemed reluctant to assist”.
“I am very concerned about Clinton’s safety,” he said.
Stephen May, Van Niekerk’s lawyer, speaking to TimesLIVE outside the Randburg magistrate’s court while Van Niekerk’s case stood down pending the court action in Durban, said his client was arrested at King Shaka Airport as he was about to leave the country and shortly before he was to have co-operated with the Hawks in handing over certain information.
“The arrest was challenged in the KwaZulu-Natal high court and an order was given that he be detained at Verulam police station and that he not be removed from there.
“However, a warrant [of arrest] emanated from Sandton police station or the Randburg magistrate’s court, and in breach and in contempt of the order of the high court members of the police brought Van Niekerk to Sandton police station.”
He said Van Niekerk’s laptop and cellphone were taken away from him, “which is where much of the information was”.
“I do not know if there is any alternative place where that information is stored. He is in custody in what seems to be an effort to silence him and prevent his co-operation with the legitimate authorities.”
He said what needed to be done was to secure his release and, if possible, he be placed in a witness protection programme and preferably removed from the country so that the people whom the information is about cannot get hold of him.
“They clearly have the kind of reach and ability to influence the authorities, or at least corrupt elements within the authorities, to do what exactly is happening now, which is an unlawful arrest, and a breach of a court order.
“What appears to be happening is a complete subversion of the justice system and its use or abuse by criminal elements,” May alleged.
The police did not respond to a request for say.