Advocate abandons bid for legal aid

Cape Town - An advocate charged with defrauding legal aid authorities abandoned his application for legal aid in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Cape Town, on Friday.

Motlatsi Ishmail Pitlele, 43, appeared before Magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg, who warned him to appear in court again on 21 August.

Prosecutor Simone Liedeman told the court Pitlele had abandoned his application for legal aid, and that privately funded Advocate C Ctiyase would conduct the defence.

Pitlele was previously represented by privately funded Advocate Saliem Banderker, who withdrew for financial reasons.

Liedeman alleges Pitlele twice billed Legal Aid SA for work not done. He has not yet pleaded to two fraud charges involving R23 464.

According to the charge sheet, Legal Aid SA engages legal practitioners in private practice to defend indigent persons in need of free legal representation, through the Judicare system.

Pitlele was engaged by legal aid authorities in July 2006, to represent an accused in a Western Cape High Court criminal trial.

Pitlele allegedly billed legal aid authorities in February 2007, for R11 577, and falsely specified that the trial had run from 12 to 27 February, and was still running.

The bill was approved, and payment made into his bank account.

According to the charge sheet, the case was then allocated to another advocate to complete the partly heard matter.

The second advocate finalised the case, and stated in his account that he had in fact started and finalised the case, and that the matter was not partly heard when he took over.

On the second fraud charge, Pitlele allegedly billed legal aid for R14 210, for work he had not done in the Western Cape High Court.

In the belief that he had in fact represented the second client, legal aid paid him R11 887.