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Media: Magistrate reprimands ex-lawyer facing 51 fraud charges10 06 2009
June 09, 2009 Edition 1 Lavern de Vries Source: Cape Argus
THE TRIAL of a former attorney charged with defrauding hundreds of Cape Flats families of millions was due to get under way today, five years after he allegedly fled the country.
Carl John Botman appeared in the Bellville Commercial Crimes Court yesterday and was reprimanded by magistrate Amrith Shabilall for delaying the trial.
Yesterday’s postponement was the third in the trial of Botman, who appeared in court without his lawyer.
Botman argued that it had not been his intention to delay the matter.
He said the trial could not proceed without his attorney, who was based in Malmesbury and had not informed Botman that he would not be in court yesterday.
During a court appearance in March, Botman said he would represent himself if he had no lawyer.
But yesterday he said that although he had been an attorney, he had no experience in the realm of the Commercial Crimes Court.
Magistrate Shabilall rejected this, saying even people without any legal background could represent themselves because the constitution allowed for their rights to be protected.
“A matter of this nature (commercial crime) is no different to any other matter, and you do not have the ultimate right to legal representation. You have been dilatory up until now and you must remember that your rights do not precede the rights of the witnesses and those of the State,” he countered.
The magistrate said that although the State thought allowing Botman to represent himself without having scrutinised any documents could be seen as unfair, he felt it was in the interests of justice to proceed and ordered Botman to be ready for trial today.
Botman had one day to peruse statements and prepare to cross-examine witnesses who are among the 364 people who submitted claims that amounted to R1 085 115.64 to the Attorneys’ Fidelity Fund against the trust money of CJ Botman Attorneys.
The State alleges that the trust account of Botman’s practice was R54 871 overdrawn in May 2004 and that he had since then issued 51 worthless cheques drawn from the trust account.
Botman faces 51 fraud charges linked to those cheques, and a theft charge.
In January 2000 the Cape Town Community Housing Company (CTCHC), in partnership with the city, offered new affordable low-cost houses.
Houses were built in Newfields Village, Hanover Park, Lyuoloville, Heideveld, Philippi, Eastridge and Woodridge in Mitchells Plain.
Disgruntled residents from these areas refused to pay rent, alleging their homes were shoddily built. Instead they entrusted their cash to Botman, who is also accused of stealing R883 752.20 from the trust account.
Last year the provincial government said it would pay R46m for repairs to the low-cost houses after an audit found several structural defects.
But residents lobbied to see the cash invested in the trust account to pay off their rental arrears, the alleged result of misappropriation by Botman.
Botman appeared in court after he was subpoenaed by investigators from the commercial crimes unit.
The court heard that his mother had received the summons while he was in London. He first appeared in court in April last year.