Relief for Poone
…as SA provisionally withdraws illegal diamond dealing charges against Lesotho businessman
PROMINENT businessman Edward Poone was a happy man on Tuesday after South African State Prosecutor Senior Advocate Mpho Makhaga provisionally withdrew illegal diamond dealing charges against him before the Kimberly Magistrate’s Court.
According to South African media reports, the charges were withdrawn after the prosecution failed to proceed with the case due to the poor health of the investigating officer.
The reports quoted Advocate Makhaga as telling the court that the officer, who is also the key witness in the case, had been booked off-sick for six months and could be available in October this year.
However, the prosecutor said he was not sure if the detective would be in a position to proceed with the trial on his return, hence the court’s decision to provisionally withdraw charges against Mr Poone.
Mr Poone was arrested in August 2014 alongside 26 other high-profile suspects for allegedly engaging in illegal diamond dealings in Kimberly, South Africa.
The operation that resulted in the arrests was mounted by South Africa’s special investigating unit, the Hawks, in 2013 , following a tip-off by members of the public.
Mr Poone and his co-accused first appeared before the Kimberly Magistrate’s Court in August last year and were released after paying bail ranging between R30 000 and R500 000. Mr Poone was made to pay R150 000 bail to gain his freedom.
However, in a new twist to the saga, Mr Poone’s case was separated from the rest of the original group of suspects in January this year.
After the separation, he was joined to five new suspects, namely Colin Carey, Xeuwei Yang, Spiro Louverdis, Brent Lunt and Andrew Pedisane.
Notes one of the media outlets: “Indications are that the State’s case against the accused is starting to unravel as it is believed that only one other witness, the police informant responsible for infiltrating the illegal diamond syndicate, is all the State has in its armour to counter the ‘onslaught’ planned by some of the senior advocates who are representing the high-profile accused at a cost of between R30 000 and R40 000 per day.”
The publication also noted on Wednesday that when the charges were withdrawn, Magistrate Vernon Smith told Mr Poone that there was a possibility that he could be prosecuted again on the same charges.
Continues the paper: “However, insiders have revealed that this is unlikely, given the investigating officer’s dismal health condition.
“It is also expected that charges would be withdrawn against Carey, Yang, Louverdis, Lunt and Pedisane when they appear in the Kimberly Magistrate’s Court later this year.
“…Several of the main accused have indicated that they are considering laying counter-charges against the State, suing for millions in lost income incurred while the outcome of the case in pending.”
Mr Poone, who lives in Ha-Thetsane, Maseru, is said to jointly own Florio-Poone Diamonds CC based in Kimberly, alongside Ms Antonella Florio-Poone.
The company reportedly trades in rough diamonds and has been in operation since 2006.
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