The Fidentia Group’s former executive chairperson, J Arthur Brown, was on Monday released on R10 000 bail following his recent re-arrest on embezzlement charges concerning the Antheru Trust.
Brown was also out on bail on embezzlement charges involving Fidentia and the Transport, Education and Training Authority (Teta), as well as the Fundi and Infinity investment cases.
Brown, 38, appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court before Justhree Steyn, who said insufficient evidence had been placed before the court to persuade it that Brown had become a flight risk since his wife had fled to Australia.
Steyn said a High Court judge had recently ruled that Brown was in fact a flight risk and had refused him bail.
However, that was in a different matter, and the Magistrate’s Court was not bound by the judge’s ruling.
Another ground on which prosecutor’s Bruce Morrison SC and Thersia du Toit had opposed bail, was their contention that he would interfere with a male state witness in the Antheru case, Herman Heydenrych.
This was based on the fact that Brown’s lawyer had contacted Heydenrych to establish if he was a witness or the actual complainant in the Antheru case.
Steyn said a mere conversation did not constitute interference, and that no evidence had been placed before the court to support the fear that he would interfere with witnesses if released on bail.
Innocent until proven guilty
Steyn said Brown had made a good impression on the court and had stood his ground under intense cross-examination.
Steyn said the hearing had been protracted, and that Brown had had the onus to satisfy the court that his release on bail was in the interests of justice.
Steyn said he had to keep in mind that Brown had not yet been convicted by a court of law in the Antheru Trust case and that South African law presumed an accused innocent until proven guilty.
To keep Brown in custody with no justification would be a violation of his constitutional right to freedom.
Steyn said 14 days had passed between Brown’s wife’s departure and his arrest and that the 14 days had given Brown ample opportunity to abscond if he wished to do so.
He said Brown had not done so, and that in fact he had attended every hearing as required by other bail conditions.
Steyn said there was a case against Brown in the Antheru matter, but Brown had shown that he had a strong defence as well.
Steyn ruled that it was in the interest of justice to release Brown on bail.