Business, Politics

Barry Tannenbaum, from here to eternity

By Branko Brkic 28 October 2009

To succeed, Tannenbaum investigators will need perseverance, political support and lots of money. Do they have it?

The long, slow, arduous process of dragging alleged fraudster Barry Tannenbaum and his former lawyer Dean Reese back to South Africa to face charges has begun.

But judging by a host of other cases involving extradition from Australia, Tannenbaum can rest easy in his mansion in the leafy Sydney suburb of St Ives.

The history of extradition attempts suggests it’s an arduous expensive process in which the extraditee has numerous opportunities to run circles around the legal system and engage in a frightening procession of appeals, making the process effectively redundant.

The extraditee can fight the case in both jurisdictions and prosecutors have to be willing to spend huge amounts effectively proving the case not only in their own country, but also in a foreign jurisdiction according to a different legal system. That legal system may or may not be supportive of the case, in which its own citizens are often not victims, with little incentive to provide resources to assist.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) applied to the Pretoria High Court more than two years ago for the extradition of John Stratton in connection with the death of businessman Brett Kebble and associated fraud charges. The application was granted.

For reasons that are not clear, it has been reported that the NPA has yet to ask Australian authorities to extradite John Stratton, despite investigators saying it was imperative that he be tried with alleged crime kingpin Glenn Agliotti.

Questioned on the apparent lack of progress with the extradition request and arrest warrant then NPA spokesman Tlali Tlali told Business Day only: “We will comment about the outcomes of the efforts we undertook only when we are in a position to do so”.

The Tannenbaum case differs in that it appears to have some support from inside the cabinet – something which does not appear to have been the case in prosecuting all those involved in the Kebble murder.

During his mid-term budget speech in Parliament, finance minister Pravin Gordhan announced that warrants against Reese and Tannenbaum had been finalised. Gordhan also provided some details about the case:

“It now appears that the scheme involved R12.5 billion in financial transactions. We know that one individual received more than R800 million in returns and in all likelihood is not paying tax on those returns,” he said.

Yet both Tannenbaum and Reese vociferously claim they are innocent and Tannenbaum at least appears to be determined to avoid returning to SA in any attempt to clear his name.

The difficulty in effecting the extradition has already been demonstrated once in this case.

Barwa Real Estate Co., Qatar’s second-largest property developer, is attempting to freeze the assets of Rees in South Africa and in London after it lost $30m in the scheme. But Barwa’s first application to freeze the assets, usually easier than extradition, was dismissed by a UK court in August. It is trying again, and a finding is due to be made this week.

By Tim Cohen


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