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Seth Nthai is expected to appear in court on Tuesday to face corruption charge on allegations from 2009

Seth Nthai is expected to appear in court on Tuesday to face corruption charge on allegations from 2009

Seth Nthai
Seth Nthai is expected to appear in court on Tuesday to face corruption charge on allegations from 2009—

Seth Nthai, who was stripped of the title as advocate in 2020, will on Tuesday appear in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court sitting in the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court.

According to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Nthai is charged with three counts of corruption.

The case relates to allegations that, in 2009, Nthai attempted to solicit a R5-million bribe from Italian businesses, which had been locked in a mining rights dispute with the South African government.

In 2020, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) overturned Nthai’s readmission to the Bar – and referred its scathing ruling to the NPA to consider possible criminal charges.

In its ruling, the SCA said: “On his own version, there is no escape from the fact that this [attempt to solicit a bribe] constituted a serious crime, for which he surprisingly does not appear to have been charged.”

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At the time, Judge Nathan Ponnan dismissed the Polokwane High Court’s ruling that depression and anxiety could explain Nthai’s attempt to solicit a R5-million bribe.

Ponnan said there was insufficient psychiatric evidence to support this finding.

“The anxiety and depression, such as it is, hardly explain his clear, goal-directed behaviour over a protracted period, nor can it mitigate the dishonesty.”

News24 previously reported that recordings of Nthai showed he not only promised to make the mining dispute case go away, if the Italian businesses paid the bribe into a foreign account, but he also disclosed key aspects of the government’s strategy in fighting the case.

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He even flew to Italy at his own expense to secure the bribe. He also agreed with the racist assertion of an Italian businessman that this kind of corruption was “more African”.

“It is difficult to imagine a more egregious transgression of the norms of professional conduct,” Ponnan said.

“This was no mere casual or momentary lapse of judgement. It was carefully calculated and zealously pursued. When the several meetings in this country failed to bear fruit, Mr Nthai travelled to Italy for the express purpose of nailing down an agreement.”

Last year, Nthai was dealt another blow after the Constitutional Court dismissed his application to appeal the SCA ruling.

Meanwhile, his former company secretary, Marietjie Jansen van Vuuren, had previously produced evidence that showed Nthai continued to work as an advocate after being struck from the roll in 2013.

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Jansen van Vuuren told the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) that Nthai engaged in “unethical behaviour, in that he continued to practise law after being prohibited by the high court to do so in 2013… and not only did he require of me to assist him in doing so, but he also required me to cover up the fact that he was practising law”.

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