Tue, 26 Oct 2021

  • Seth Nthai's application to appeal an SCA judgment overturning his readmission to the Bar has been dismissed.
  • Nthai had been stripped of the title of advocate.
  • The Constitutional Court said his application "doesn't engage with the court's jurisdiction".

Controversial lawyer Seth Nthai's career has been dealt a blow after the Constitutional Court dismissed his application to appeal a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) judgment that overturned his readmission to the Bar.

The highest court dismissed Nthai's application with costs.

The court ruled that Nthai's application for leave to appeal be dismissed as "it doesn't engage with the court's jurisdiction".

Nthai was stripped of the title of advocate by the SCA last year.

In a unanimous ruling, the SCA said:

Advocates are required to be of complete honesty, reliability and integrity. The need for absolute honesty and integrity applies both in relation to the duties owed to their clients and the courts.

"The profession has strict ethical rules to prevent malfeasance. As officers of the court, advocates serve a necessary role in the proper administration of justice. Given the unique position that they occupy, the profession has strict ethical rules."

Judge Nathan Ponnan, who authored the judgment, dismissed the Limpopo High Court's ruling that Nthai's attempt to solicit a R5 million bribe from Italian businesses, which had been locked in a mining rights dispute with the South African government over a decade ago, could only be explained by his depression and anxiety.

The judge said there was insufficient psychiatric evidence to back up this finding.

At the time, Nthai was representing the government in a R2.2 billion lawsuit against a group of Italian businesses, who claimed their mining rights had been expropriated.

They initially met at their respective homes in Johannesburg, but Nthai later travelled to Italy.

He subsequently attempted to solicit a R5 million bribe to be paid into his foreign bank account.

ALSO READ | Top advocate Seth Nthai 'moonlighted' for government after being disbarred

In return, he undertook to ensure that the government would agree to settle the dispute on the basis that each party would pay its own costs, thus potentially saving the claimants millions of rands at the expense of his client, the government.

Nthai was admitted as an advocate on 19 January 1988.

In his application to the Constitutional Court, Nthai argued that the SCA failed to apply the correct test for readmission, News24 reported.

He said the SCA "selectively relied" on parts of his evidence and "completely ignoring uncontested evidence I presented that the trip to Italy had nothing to do with the 'express purpose of nailing down an agreement', but was as a result of an invitation extended to me by [businessman Mario] Marcenaro at our first meeting".

He also said the court failed to appreciate that the evidence he presented was not contested by any of the parties.

Nthai added:

The SCA condemned and found me guilty of a crime and, by doing so, turned the readmission proceedings to an unfair criminal trial, which further sowed the SCA's failure to fully and properly appreciate the nature of the proceedings, issues and test in the matter which was before it.

"There was clearly an initial degree of confusion on the SCA's part, which is also manifested in its harsh words and unfair criticism in the judgment, which it also directed at the high court and my legal representatives."

Source: News24

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