Anni Dewani killer’s lawyer sus­pended over fees row, faces be­ing struck from roll

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - FA­TIMA SCHROEDER

THE at­tor­ney who de­fended the gun­man who shot dead Swedish hon­ey­mooner Anni Dewani has been sus­pended from prac­tis­ing while the Cape Law So­ci­ety takes steps to have him per­ma­nently barred from the pro­fes­sion.

Three years ago the eyes of the world were on Matthews Day­i­mane as he de­fended Xo­lile Mn­geni.

To­day he has to de­fend him­self against al­le­ga­tions he spent funds meant for one of his clients, which had been paid into his trust ac­count.

In a judg­ment last month, the Western Cape High Court gave the Law So­ci­ety un­til the end of Jan­uary next year to in­sti­tute pro­ceed­ings against Day­i­mane to have him struck from the roll of at­tor­neys.

In court pa­pers it emerged that Day­i­mane had lodged a Road Ac­ci­dent Fund ( RAF) claim on be­half of a client who was in­volved in an ac­ci­dent in 2005.

In set­tle­ment of the claim, the RAF paid about R269 000 into Day­i­mane’s trust ac­count in May 2009.

Four years later, when the client started mak­ing in­quiries, she dis­cov­ered the claim had been set­tled and an amount paid into Day­i­mane’s trust ac­count.

In Septem­ber 2013 the mat­ter was re­ported to the Cape Law So­ci­ety (CLS), which then be­gan an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

It emerged Day­i­mane had al­legedly used the money over the years, rather than re­tain­ing it in his trust ac­count on be­half of his client.

Nolita Kose, who serves as a mem­ber of the CLS coun­cil, said in an af­fi­davit Day­i­mane later ad­mit­ted to so­ci­ety of­fi­cials he had suf­fered financial dif­fi­cul­ties at the time and he trans­ferred the money to his busi­ness ac­count to cover his ex­penses.

How­ever, he claimed he in­tended to re­pay the amount once his financial sit­u­a­tion had im­proved.

The fol­low­ing month Day­i­mane paid the client R200 000, keep­ing the bal­ance as his fee.

But his client’s new at­tor- ney ques­tioned why Day­i­mane made no ref­er­ence to in­ter­est that should have ac­crued from the time the RAF pay­ment was made. He also wanted to know whether the RAF set­tle­ment in­cluded le­gal costs.

In Septem­ber last year the CLS found Day­i­mane guilty of con­tra­ven­ing Law So­ci­ety rules.

Kose said Day­i­mane’s con­duct was dis­hon­ourable and un­wor­thy, and showed that he was not a fit and proper per­son to prac­tise as an at­tor­ney.

“(The Law So­ci­ety) sub­mits that, apart from an or­der pre­vent­ing (Day­i­mane) from prac­tis­ing, it is nec­es­sary for a cu­ra­tor to be ap­pointed to his trust ac­counts and prac­tice in or­der that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion may be con­ducted to es­tab­lish whether any other mem­bers of the pub­lic have had their money mis­ap­pro­pri­ated.”

Au­dit re­ports have al­legedly re­vealed how the bal­ance in Day­i­mane’s trust ac­count di­min­ished from 2009, when the RAF pay­ment was made, to last year.

Dur­ing this time Day­i­mane rep­re­sented Mn­geni in the Western Cape High Court. Mn­geni was charged and later con­victed of Dewani’s mur­der.

Day­i­mane told the me­dia at the time that he rep­re­sented Mn­geni on a partly pro bono ba­sis, and that the rest was pri­vately funded.

The Law So­ci­ety ap­proached the High Court ear­lier this year to in­ter­dict Day­i­mane from prac­tis­ing, pend­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion to have his name re­moved from the roll of at­tor­neys.

Judge Ashley Binns-Ward said it ap­peared the at­tor­ney had “made him­self guilty of mis­con­duct which would lead to his re­moval from the roll, and is prac­tis­ing in cir­cum­stances where the pub­lic at large is at risk of be­com­ing the vic­tim of sim­i­lar mis­con­duct”.

The find­ings were pro­vi­sional, and did not pre-empt the re­sult of the main pro­ceed­ings.

He granted the in­ter­dict, but warned that it was “un­rea­son­able and un­ac­cept­able” for Day­i­mane’s sus­pen­sion to be un­duly pro­longed.

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