The Johannesburg Society of Advocates (JSA) has filed an application for leave to appeal against a Limpopo High Court (Polokwane) ruling in favour of Seth Nthai who was a member of the Johannesburg and Pretoria Bars before he was struck from the roll.

As reported in Legalbrief Today, the High Court ruled in favour of Nthai last month, almost a decade after he was disbarred.

A News24 report notes he admitted to serious transgressions when he tried to solicit a R5m bribe from an Italian businessman who was party to a dispute with the government over mining rights. At the time, Nthai had been instructed to represent the government in the legal wrangle.

Secret recordings revealed the Advocate sharing his client's confidential information with the chief executive of one of the Italian companies linked to the case. In the audio recordings, Nthai can be heard promising a Mr Marcenaro – as he is referred to in court papers – that he would convince the government to settle the matter outside of an arbitration process in return for the R5m payment.

However, in its application filed in the Limpopo High Court (Polokwane), the JSA argued that the court had failed to recognise that Nthai's conduct amounted to the ‘corrupt and criminal solicitation of a bribe in exchange for the improper performance of his highest ethical duties as a counsel’.

‘This is the most egregious conduct imaginable for a counsel, worse even than overreaching, overcharging and double briefing,’ it said.

The JSA added that the court had failed to apply the proper legal test for readmission in this matter, in that readmission would only be considered if the applicant demonstrated to the court that he had completely changed, notes the News24 report.

While the court said the judgment was about Nthai being given a second chance, the JSA believed that it erred in this finding.

It said the question for determination was not whether Nthai should be given a second chance, but whether he had genuinely, completely and permanently reformed. The application also highlights that the JSA and the Pretoria Society of Advocates have a record of Nthai's previous ‘transgressions and allegations that he overreached in charging one of his clients, Anglo Platinum Management Services (Pty) Limited, unreasonable and unjustified amounts of money and acted for parties with conflicting interests’.

According to the JSA, Nthai had never made a full disclosure to any disciplinary body, or to any court, of the extent of his misconduct in relation to the allegations of his overreaching and acting with conflicts of interest in the Anglo Platinum matter.

Nthai reportedly told News24 he would be opposing the application. He said he had already instructed his legal representatives to bring an urgent application for an order that the court judgment ‘shall operate and be executed in full pending the outcome of the application for appeal’.

Legalbrief Today reported previously that the General Council of the Bar is also considering an appeal.

Full News24 report