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Liberator Germaniae
Sunday, February 25th, 2007, 10:30 AM
Kebble suspect fights extradition

Sam Sole and Stefaans Brümmer

24 February 2007 11:59

Australian John Stratton, a suspect in the Brett Kebble murder case, has launched a pre-emptive strike to prevent his extradition from Australia to stand trial alongside alleged crime boss Glenn “the Landlord” Agliotti.

Stratton was a close confidant of Kebble and is widely regarded as the éminence grise behind many of the mining tycoon’s financial schemes.

Stratton’s South African lawyers last week filed notice of an urgent application in the Pretoria High Court to interdict the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) from pursuing an extradition request with the Australian authorities.

Stratton’s attorney, Rael Gootkin, said in court papers that the interdict application became necessary when the NPA refused to provide an undertaking not to proceed with the extradition request.

Gootkin asked for the undertaking pending the outcome of an earlier main application by Stratton to have the entire extradition agreement between South Africa and Australia declared invalid.

According to the main application, the extradition agreement, signed on December 9 1998, should be struck down for a variety of reasons. In his affidavit Stratton claims, among other legal deficiencies, that:

* the Constitution does not authorise the president to delegate his authority to enter into extradition agreements; in this case the agreement was signed by the minister of trade and industry;

* the National Council of Provinces did not lawfully approve the agreement in line with the procedures laid down by the Constitution, in that no provincial mandate for the approval was sought or obtained; and

* the agreement was not properly gazetted.

Stratton asks the court to find the extradition agreement invalid, rendering any extradition request made in terms of the agreement null and void.

In response, the NPA would only say this week that Stratton’s application will be opposed. Correspondence attached to the court file also reveals that Stratton was formally interviewed by police investigators prior to the Scorpions taking over the murder investigation -- and that a statement was taken from him.

Remarkably, given the NPA’s claim that the police and Scorpions were now cooperating in a joint investigation, it appears that by December 18 2006, the Scorpions were not in possession of the taped police interview with Stratton or his statement.

The correspondence also reveals that Stratton is suffering from prostate cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. It is supposedly for this reason that he indicates he will “not be returning to South Africa in the near future”.

Australian law makes provisions for Stratton to be arrested based on a lawful extradition request, and brought before an Australian court for a hearing, a process he claims will cause him irreparable harm should the extradition agreement be found to be invalid.

In his affidavit Stratton states that in the latter part of 2006 he became aware of allegations that he was involved in criminal activities in South Africa and that the NPA was considering requesting the Australian authorities to extradite him. He therefore instructed his lawyers to seek clarification from the NPA.

“On 18 December 2006 my South African legal representatives (Advocate Francois van Zyl SC and attorney Mr Rael Gootkin) met with representatives [of the NPA] (Advocate Gerhard Nel SC and Inspector Andrew Leask) in Pretoria.

“It was suggested that if I did not voluntarily return to South Africa to stand trial, the South African authorities would by the end of January 2007 request the Australian authorities to extradite me to South Africa in respect of an accusation concerning the murder in September 2005 of the late Mr Roger Brett Kebble.”

During a consultation in Australia in February, Stratton instructed his lawyers to challenge any possible extradition attempt.

If successful, Stratton’s application to throw out the extradition agreement could be highly embarrassing to the South African government and would likely mean that the process of presidential and parliamentary approval of an extradition treaty with Australia would have to start from scratch.

It is not known whether any other international agreements might also be vulnerable to claims of invalidity based on the procedural irregularities listed by Stratton.

The application also raises constitutional issues and it is clear that Stratton will exploit every legal *avenue to avoid being brought to court in South Africa, including an appeal to the Constitutional Court if he is unsuccessful in the high court.



Source (/www.mg.co.za/articlePage.aspx?articleid=300076&area=/insight/insight__national/)