SA businessman languishes in Madagascar prison
Publish date: 03 December 2018
Issue Number: 802
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
A South African businessman has been in detention for more than three months in one of Madagascar’s most overcrowded prisons for fraud he claims he didn’t commit. With the rest of the island state in the middle of a fierce presidential elections battle, he’s unlikely to have any respite until next year. Since 2013, Chris van Jaarsveld has been the MD of Quality Transmission Equipment (QTE), a contractor erecting cell phone masts on the island. The Daily Maverick reports that the company this year brought an auditor from SA to inspect its books after he suspected money was going missing. ‘We closed the (company’s) account to prevent any further transactions from going through. After we closed it, the cheque to one of the suppliers wasn’t paid out, and he brought the case against Chris,’ Andrew Edmondson, the company’s executive director told Rapport. The company lost its contract and 700 local employees lost their jobs. There is a suspicion that the stolen funds – estimated to be more than R40m – was used towards the campaign of one of the presidential candidates. Van Jaarsveld has blamed an officer for having forged his signature on a number of cheques and embezzling the money in the process. Despite Van Jaarsveld getting an expert to testify that the signatures on the cheques were not his, he had been refused bail three times without reasons being given by the court. The report notes that Edmondson said the officer destroyed the electronic bank statements which could have served as evidence, while hard copies disappeared. Amnesty International, in its recent report, Punished for being poor: unjustified, excessive and prolonged pre-trial detention in Madagascar, found that ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ violated international laws and standards.