The sinister incident this week when a well-known advocate was attacked on a street in Pretoria, and injected with an unknown substance, called to mind spy thrillers from the Cold War era – when a spy collapsed on the street of London after being injected with fake umbrella by Bulgarian agents. Closer to home, local senior advocate Jaap Cilliers had been attending court in a civil matter on Wednesday when he was attacked and had to be taken to hospital. By DE WET POTGIETER.
Cilliers, the man who defended notorious people like “Dr Death”, Wouter Basson; Jackie Selebi and the Waterkloof Four; was on the day of his attack appearing in court on the behalf of the defendant, At Sheperd. His instructing attorney, Alan van Quickelberger, was walking with him and their junior advocate from the court building to the advocates’ chambers in Vermeulen street when a young white man in a baseball cap came running from behind.
“At first I feared the youngster was going to grab Jaap’s cell phone from his hand, but he pushed him and ran past him,” said Van Quickelberger.
According to Cilliers, he felt a sharp pain in his buttocks and, a few steps further on, started feeling dizzy and nauseous. He was immediately taken to the Heart Hospital in Sunnyside, where doctors conducted blood tests on him in the intensive care unit.
The blood tests were inconclusive, but a source close to Cilliers claims that Wouter Basson told the advocate years ago of deadly poisons that could act without leaving traces in the victim’s blood. It is possible that such a poison was used, since it is unlikely that the assailant actually managed to inject Cilliers – it is believed that he was in such a hurry that he merely pricked him.
Cilliers was still under observation in hospital on Thursday, and the civil case in which he was involved carried on in his absence.
The case itself reads like a thriller. Cilliers was appearing on behalf of a client with a R120-million claim against him. The claim relates to a bitter tussle between three Gauteng businessmen and underworld tycoon Frikkie Lutzkie.
The three businessmen, At Sheperd, Ken Stricker and Dave Smith, took Lutzkie to court in 2011, claiming they were sucker-punched in a multi-million rand Kwazulu-Natal property development deal.
Lutzkie, a well-known boxer and cage fighter, brought the multi-million rand civil claim against Sheperd in a tit-for-tat lawsuit which has been in progress for the past two years.
According to Van Quickelberger, the hearing didn’t go very well for Lutzkie on Wednesday, and he walked out of the courtroom before the hearing was adjourned for the day.
Lutzkie was at the centre of a controversial incident in 2010 when Sheperd, Stricker and Smith were manhandled, arrested and bundled into police vehicles. A 25-man SWAT team from Mpumalanga arrested them in a high-risk, military style pre-dawn swoop in July 2010, transported them to Middleburg, and locked them up in the police cells.
All charges against the three were withdrawn in the Middelburg Magistrate’s Court in January 2011, and Shepherd subsequently instituted proceedings against Lutzkie, his lawyer Hennie Kotze and local police reservist Drummond Hammond, who they claim was behind the activation of the SWAT team.
Soon afterwards, these legal documents were handed over to prosecutors in the KwaDukuza (Stanger) magisterial district, wherein property speculators Shepherd, Stricker and Smith claimed Lutzkie colluded with two Gauteng attorneys to defraud them of hundreds of millions of rands. At the centre of the alleged property swindle is a prime development adjacent to the super-luxurious Salt Rock estate on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast.
Valued at R600 million in June 2006, the Mount Richmore Estate was acquired by Lutzkie a year later at an auction for a bargain-basement R50 million.
Earlier, Shepherd and his partners in the Mount Richmore Estate fell on hard times, and finding themselves unable to find financiers for the project, approached Lutzkie to inject the money needed to keep Mount Richmore going, in exchange for a majority shareholding.
This effectively gave him control of the company, a position he used, according to Shepherd and his co-investors, to prevent shareholder meetings from taking place and generally block additional investments lobbied by Shepherd and company that would have put the venture definitively in the black.
Finally, the minority shareholders had had enough, and took the matter to the High Court, where it was ordered that the estate should be sold at a public auction to cut losses.
According to Shepherd’s statement, the Mount Richmore board, with Lutzkie present, recorded a unanimous decision to enforce a reserve price of R184 million on the estate – the sum that was outstanding on the bond and to creditors. The lot was expected to reach at least R250 million at the auction.
Hans Badenhorst, as company lawyer, was tasked with representing minority shareholders, and with communicating the reserve price to the auctioneer.
As recorded in Shepherd’s affidavit, “Kotze (Lutzkie’s attorney) had to take care of the technical queries at the auction and inform potential bidders of the reserve price of R184 million to cover the bond and other creditors.” But in the event, Lutzkie snapped up the estate for a mere R50 million – despite the fact that, according to Shepherd, another bid of R51 million was lodged before the hammer fell.
Four bidders, including Lutzkie, registered their interest in bidding. One, Shaun Shankar of Elegant Lane, reportedly carried guarantees to the value of R400 million. Despite this, the hammer fell in Lutzkie’s favour for R50 million.
According to Shepherd, their attorney did not act in the minority shareholders’ interest as instructed by them: “Hans Badenhorst got up from his seat and walked over to Lutzkie, shook his hand and congratulated him.
“They then walked to the corner of the auction hall and sat down at a table, concluding the deal.
“He had no authority from his clients, the minority shareholders, to sign the deed of sale. He did not even consult them or talk to them at the auction,” stated Shepherd.
At the time of the auction, Shepherd was in Scotland, but both Stricker and Smith were present. The court papers include reference to an alleged sum of R1 million paid by Lutzkie to Badenhorst on conclusion of the deal.
Shepherd, who attended the court proceedings in Pretoria, confirmed to Daily Maverick that the criminal matter and their civil case against Lutzkie and the lawyers were both still ongoing.
Whether or not the attack on Cilliers had anything to do with the case, meanwhile, remains to be seen. DM
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