Bongers grilled in Conradie trial

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Roland Routh

WINDHOEK – Mark Bongers, the former MD of advertising firm DV 8 Saatchi & Saatchi, was subjected to intense cross-examination yesterday by South African Advocate Vas Soni SC, appearing for lawyer Dirk Conradie in the graft trial Conradie faces with Sarah Damases in the Windhoek High Court.

Conradie and Damases face three counts of contravening the Anti-Corruption Act for allegedly attempting to bribe Bongers and his wife and business partner Kim Field with a massive advertising contract from MTC if they took Damases on board as a black economic empowerment (BEE) partner.

Bongers made a recording of a meeting he and Field had with Conradie and Damases in the office of Conradie on June 12, 2012 and subsequently reported the alleged bribe to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

In his evidence in chief Bongers denied he even slightly considered Conradie’s offer and said he and Field decided to report the matter to the ACC, after they spoke to Advocate Raymond Heathcote on advice of their in-house lawyer, Francois Erasmus.

He continued this stance under cross-examination by Soni, even after Soni suggested he was tempted by the offer. According to Soni, the reason why Bongers and Field first wanted to discuss the matter with Erasmus was to determine whether they could get away with it.

Bongers denied this assertion emphatically. Soni further put it to Bongers it was only after Heathcote warned them they could be prosecuted under the ACC Act that they decided to go to the ACC.

He pointed out several contradictions in the testimony of Bongers. While Bongers asserted he and Field did not discuss the meeting they had with Conradie and Damases other than when Field uttered the words ‘Wow, that was straight-up’, after they left the office of Conradie and drove home in utter silence, Soni would have none of that. He put it to Bongers that it cannot be possible for any person who was put in such a position as Bongers claims he and Field were put by Conradie, not to discuss it or at least reminisce about it.

Bongers answered that he and Field had an arrangement that their business life and their private life should remain separate and that they never discussed business at home.

According to him, it was only the next morning at the office that he, Field and their senior: creative, Adleigh Mudge, discussed the matter and decided to seek legal advice.

While he said in his evidence in chief that only he and Field knew about the meeting with Conradie and Damaseb, he under cross-examination admitted that they told Mudge about the meeting and Soni was quick to point out that the meeting was not so super-secret as Bongers wanted them to believe.

Soni also wanted to know why Bongers, if he had reservations about the meeting as he claimed, did not share these reservations with either accused at the meeting.

With Bongers merely stating he was caught off guard by Conradie’s offer and was “stunned” by it as the reason he did not raise any reservations about the off-the-books meeting, Soni said it did not make any sense for Bongers and Field to wait till morning to either discuss the matter or take a decision.

About Bongers’ assertion that they knew the meeting with Conradie was off-the books, Soni told Bongers flat out that he went to the meeting to ascertain what benefits he could derive from the supposed impropriety of both accused.

The case continues today with Bongers to be subjected to further cross-examination.
Conradie and Damases were arrested in June 2012 after Bongers allegedly availed the tape recording to the ACC, but the matter was withdrawn by Magistrate Hileni Kavara on May 31, 2013 after the PG had not yet decided whether to prosecute or not.

The PG however quickly delivered her decision that the matter must be heard in the High Court and Conradie and Damases were re-summoned.
They are currently free on warnings.

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