The investigation diary containing vital details of the corruption case against former Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer was stolen from the investigating officer in Durban, the Western Cape High Court heard on Thursday.
"I was attacked and robbed in the city centre," said Colonel Abdul Enus, commander of an investigative unit in the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, the Hawks.
"And it wasn't saved in a cloud? Or backed up somewhere?" asked Judge Rosheni Allie.
"Unfortunately not," said Enus as the defence team snorted and chuckled among themselves.
Lamoer, tow truck company owner Salim Dawjee, and brigadiers Darius van der Ross, Sharon Govender and her husband Colin Govender face 109 charges of corruption, racketeering and money laundering involving R1.6m.
Dawjee allegedly paid them for favours. All have pleaded not guilty.
The case against them has detoured into a trial-within-a-trial with the defence attempting to unravel the State's case by looking for loose ends in the legalities of how evidence against the five was collected.
State accused of playing catch-up
This includes whether the investigators had proper authorisation for secret surveillance, which former police commissioner Riah Phiyega had warned Lamoer about, and subpoenas, and whether the time limits of the surveillance authorisations were honoured.
The State has already been taken on for allegedly withholding documents needed to prepare a defence for a constitutionally guaranteed fair trial.
It was also accused of playing catch-up after affidavits needed to support subpoena applications were found to be missing, then suddenly appeared.
On Thursday, the new attack in the trial-within-a-trial on the way the State conducted its investigation was around how, and when, information was gathered during the investigation and given to Enus.
Prosecutor Billy Downer and Enus spent the day laboriously going through dates and times of information entered into the record for the charges, with Enus saying whether it was provided to him by another officer, if it was gleaned from a surveillance transcript, if he actually heard the secretly obtained conversations, and if bank statements or receipts were obtained through footwork.The defence appears to be attempting to isolate evidence that may have been obtained illegally, possibly rendering it inadmissable and reducing the charges.
It was a stop-start procedure with Dawjee's defence lawyer Advocate William King SC leaping up to cut Enus off when he divulged too much background on how each charge was formulated.
Some of the information revealed by Enus, before a chorus of shushing by the defence in case he spilled too much, included an allegation that Dawjee had paid a Truworths and Markham account for Lamoer; and that he had allegedly paid for pool maintenance services for the Govenders.
Enus' mention of the name and workplace of an informant that he obtained a statement from had the gallery and defence almost shouting at him to stop.
But the defence left its trump card on whether the State's paperwork was all in order until last.
King asked for a copy of Dawjee's investigation diary.
Enus said that when he was in Durban in 2015 investigating the recovery of Dawjee's stolen car, he was attacked and robbed, and his investigation diary and the electronic version of the case files were all gone.
He has had to reconstruct everything he had gathered on the case.
Judge Allie, who asked both sides numerous questions for clarity as she took notes and refereed endless objections, said that the reconstruction had better be ready by Monday when the trial-within-a-trial resumes, as she was not putting up with anymore postponements.
The accused are out on bail.