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Lawtons Africa Statement 2 June 2023

Recent Media Reports by Media24 newspapers:

News24 and City Press



On 1 June 2023, Adriaan Basson, editor-in-chief at News24 published an article with the misleading and factually incorrect title “Sandton law firm named in state capture in battle against liquidation” and on 31 May 2023 Abram Mashego at City Press published an article with the misleading and factually incorrect title “Standard Bank demands R30 million from directors of state capture implicated company”.


The headings imply, among other things, that Lawtons Africa (formerly known as Hogan Lovells South Africa) was somehow involved in state capture and is currently facing liquidation by Standard Bank, which is simply not true and is not supported by the facts.

The contents of both articles from Media24 are also misleading, inaccurate and factually flawed, in numerous key respects. Mr Basson’s and Mr Mashego’s misleading, inaccurate and factually flawed articles, and the timing and surrounding circumstances and sources thereof, will be taken up and addressed in detail in the appropriate forums, including the Press Council of South Africa Ombudsman and the Legal Practices Council.


Following a detailed and comprehensive review of their conduct in the course of providing professional legal services to clients, such reviews having been conducted both internally and as applicable externally by the investigative committee of the Legal Practices Council, no Attorney currently practising at Lawtons Africa (formerly called Hogan Lovells South Africa) has been found on the facts to have ever been involved in state capture, money laundering or corruption, or to have acted unprofessionally or unethically. To insinuate or allege otherwise is malicious and untruthful and intended to cause harm to Lawtons Africa. Each Attorney currently practising at Lawtons Africa is a fit and proper person, acting consistently, professionally and ethically in all work performed for the firm’s Clients, including through the abhorrent state capture era.


It is also a fundamental and undisputed principle under our Constitution and the Rule of Law that every individual, office (including the Minister of Police, Head of the Hawks, Head of IPID) or organisation (including SARS) is entitled to legal representation by an Attorney. The acts of the Client or its employees, however bad or good they may be, or subsequently found to be, are not the acts of the Attorney. The Attorney, as an Officer of the Court working in an independent adversarial legal system, is required to professionally and ethically engage with the Client and through Counsel present the Client’s case and version of the facts in a truthful way to the Court, and argue the interpretation and application of the law before the Court, to enable the Court to independently deliberate and decide the matter based upon the verifiable and admissible facts and the Court’s interpretation and application of the law and thereby resolve the dispute between the parties. This is not a kangaroo court system, and we take our professional work for our clients within the legal system very seriously.


A timed attack by or through a politician or journalist for their own purposes or agendas on an Attorney (or law firm) acting for a Client, or on a Judge, who are respectively discharging their duties in Court as Officers of the Court and as Judges, or imposing their own judgment about who they believe is or is not entitled to legal representation, is indeed an abhorrent and insidious attack on our Constitution and the Rule of Law, and on the independence of the South African adversarial legal system, which attack we as Attorneys fiercely oppose.


The Media24 (City Press and News24) articles both arise from and rely on a settlement letter sent on 11 May 2023 by TWB Attorneys (an intermediary acting for Lawtons Africa) in confidence to former directors of Lawtons Africa. This letter did not have any annexures. The settlement letter addresses the process for a proposed settlement of a legacy debt for which former directors are jointly and severally liable to Standard Bank. These types of private settlements by responsible directors in personal liability companies are not uncommon.


A copy of this settlement letter to former directors of Lawtons Africa and a version of an annexure found its way to Paul O’Sullivan of Forensics for Justice, who published a version on his website. However, Paul O’Sullivan also circulated to Lawtons Africa clients and others a different tampered with version of the settlement letter with a specific version of a draft annexure inserted into the letter, with a mysterious Footer therein reading:

X:\0000 CURRENT CLIENT PROJECTS\DANNY MCGOWAN – TEMPLAR CAPITAL\LAWTONS\LETTER TO FORMER EQUITY DIRECTORS OF LAWTONS INC (11.05.23).DOCX”.

In Paul O’Sullivan’s (Forensic for Justice) cover letter to Lawtons Africa's clients in May 2023, he expressly asks the clients to “start an immediate process to move to an ethical law firm”. In other words, Paul O’Sullivan/Forensics for Justice, with an attachment to his letter containing the mysterious Footer including the reference to “CURRENT CLIENT PROJECTS\DANNY MCGOWAN – TEMPLAR CAPITAL” now, curiously, in May 2023 expressly wants clients to start leaving Lawtons Africa.


Connecting the dots -

  • Mr Gareth Cremen (a former director of Lawtons Africa and now practising at Cox Yeats Sandton in the field of business rescue) received the settlement letter and received, separately, a specific version of the draft annexure.

  • Mr Cremen provided a copy of the settlement letter and the specific version of the draft annexure to Mr Brett Tate, a director practising at Andersens Attorneys, also in the field of business rescue.

  • Mr Tate represents Mr Daniel McGowan and Templar Capital Ltd (a company registered in Bermuda), who are both involved in litigation with a client of Lawtons Africa and Lawtons Africa. In fact, on 31 May 2023, the same day as the City Press article was published and a day before the News24 article was published, judgment was handed down in the Durban High Court in favour of the Lawtons Africa client and against Mr Daniel McGowan and Templar Capital’s interests in Gupta-owned Optimum Coal Mine and Optimum Coal Terminal, both in business rescue. The Judgement against Templar Capital and against Optimum Coal Mine and Optimum Coal Terminal in business rescue, confirms that Mr Daniel McGowan and Templar Capital cannot use the lucrative coal export rights of Gupta-owned Optimum Coal Terminal in business rescue.

  • The two Media24 (City Press and News24) journalists, Mr Adriaan Basson and Mr Abram Mashego then decided to rely on the settlement letter (with the mysterious Footer referencing “CURRENT CLIENT PROJECTS\DANNY MCGOWAN – TEMPLAR CAPITAL\LAWTONS\ LETTER TO FORMER EQUITY DIRECTORS OF LAWTONS INC (11.05.23).DOCX”) to publish their factually flawed and misleading articles on 31 May/1 June 2023.

On the front cover of Anton Harber’s book “So, for the record” Jacques Pauw is quoted as saying: “…Harber cuts with a surgeon’s precision to expose the media’s complicity in state capture” and on the back cover it is stated: “Harber’s … book is both a disquieting expose of how easily the media can be duped by a conniving cabal for its own selfish ends, and a celebration of brilliant investigative reporting by brave and ethical journalists”.

History (and in this case the Press Council of South Africa Ombudsman and Legal Practices Council) will judge whether City Press and News24 fall into the former or latter category of journalists.


In the meantime, Lawtons Africa will continue with its proud 131 year history of providing professional and ethical legal services to its clients.



 

Lawtons Africa is a South African law firm. With roots that grew out of seeds sown in down-town Johannesburg in 1892, our history features various changes and different names. Our team of approximately lawyers, including directors, consultants, associates and candidate attorneys is highly qualified, market-recognised and skilled. For further information, visit www.lawtonsafrica.com

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