BUSINESS tycoon John Arnold Bredenkamp, who for some time had received protection from Prosecutor-General Johannes Tomana, was on Wednesday ordered to pay a total of US$3,8 million he borrowed from a local businessman Yaqub Ibrahim Mohammed between 2000 and 2001 by Harare judge Justice Pricilla Chigumba.
Bredenkemp was also ordered to pay interest on the amount.
A copy of Chigumba’s ruling under case number HC 8103/14 shows that Bredenkamp had failed to repay the money despite agreeing to do so in 2012 at a meeting called by Tomana to encourage the parties to have an out of court settlement.
Tomana had indicated that he was under political pressure not to prosecute the businessman, whom he said had assisted the military during its involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo war from 1998 to 2002.
Mohammed was suing the business tycoon for violating the 2012 agreement made in the presence of Tomana and both parties’ legal representatives. Bredenkamp promised to settle the debt by February 2013. He however failed to honour the promise.
According to the judgement, Mohammed told the court: “His (Mohammed) claim was based on the agreement entered between the parties on 17 August 2012, at a meeting convened by former Attorney-General Mr Tomana. The meeting had been convened in order to see if the parties could not resolve their differences out of court after the AG had refused to prosecute the defendant in the criminal court.
“The AG had told the plaintiff that he was under political pressure not to prosecute the defendant, who was allegedly involved in assisting the military with the war in the DRC, and had been placed on the sanctions list for assisting our government.”
Mohammed attended the meeting with his lawyer Jonathan Samkange, who corroborated his client’s version and added that Tomana had refused to issue a certificate of no intention to prosecute to enable the plaintiff to mount a private prosecution.
Mohammed provided a letter dated March 8 2011 from the Ministry of Defence as evidence that the State was refusing to prosecute the businessman.
Prior to the August 2012 meeting, Bredenkamp had written to the AG’s office pledging to pay the sum by February 28, 2012. He said he needed time to dispose of some of his assets.
Chigumba noted that at one time Bredenkamp tried to pay US$3,5 million into an offshore account in Jersey but the payment did not go through because the source of the funds was unclear. At the time the businessman was under investigation by the Serious Fraud Squad.
Bredenkamp’s trustees however wrote a letter stating that the businessman had informed them that the payment was made in error, resulting in Samkange advising his client to press criminal charges which led to Bredenkamp’s arrest.
In his defence, Bredenkamp argued that he did not borrow the money personally but he did so on behalf of a company called KMC which was operating in DRC at the time.
He argued that at the meeting convened by Tomana “no personal liability to pay the money was assumed” saying he undertook to pay the money “because he felt morally obliged to do so.”
“He said his inability to pay by the agreed date was because of sanctions, not unwillingness to pay. He said he had tried to sell assets to pay and failed but he cannot recall the details due to his faulty memory. He denied that when he instructed the trustees of the Maitland Trust to deposit money into plaintiff’s account in Jersey he already knew that he was on sanctions list and under investigation and that the money would be returned to the trust,” reads the judgement.
Chigumba however said Bredenkamp was a bad witness.
“The defendant was not a good witness because when he was asked difficult questions he simply said that he was old, that he was on medication for his heart condition and that he had no recollection of the event that he was being asked about,” noted Chigumba.
But this week Mohammed’s woes came to an end after Justice Chigumba ruled in his favour ordering Bredenkamp to own up on the 16-year-old debt and dismissed his counter claim for alleged malicious prosecution.
Bredenkamp had filed a $350 000 counter claim alleging Mohammed maliciously caused his arrest and prosecution on fraud charges.
Chigumba ruled: “In the result it be and is hereby ordered that; judgement in favour of the plaintiff, as against the defendant be entered in the sum of $3 872 123 plus interest thereon at the prescribed rate calculated from February 28, 2013 to the date of payment in full as well as costs of suit on a legal practitioner and client scale.”