Stem cell accused try to draw Mbeki into case

Date: 06 Sep 2006
Stephen van Rooyen and his American wife, Laura Brown, who are facing extradition to the US for allegedly running an international stem cell scam, have served papers on President Thabo Mbeki to try to stave off their deportation. They face 51 charges relating to stem cell scams. Van Rooyen (44) and Brown (35) are challenging the constitutionality of an extradition treaty signed by the United States and South Africa, saying that it is invalid and unlawful. They appeared in the Kempton Park Magistrates Court yesterday for a hearing, where the state, on behalf of the US government, was seeking to extradite them. Van Rooyen and Brown, of the upmarket Cape Town suburb of Llandudno, have been on the run from the FBI for allegedly offering fake medicine to terminally ill and paralysed patients. But yesterday, even before their extradition hearing could begin, the couple's high powered defence team, led by advocate Willie Vermeulen SC, told the court that the couple planned to challenge the extradition treaty. Vermeulen then asked the court for a postponement as they planned to apply for an interdict in the Johannesburg High Court. The couple are also challenging the validity of their arrest, saying that the policeman who arrested them did not have a warrant. Vermeulen handed in a notice of motion to the court, challenging the validity of the extradition. President Mbeki is the first respondent in the motion, the minister for justice, the second, and the director of public prosecutions the third. All together, the couple have served papers on eight respondents including the Speaker of the National Assembly and the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces. In arguing for a postponement, Vermeulen said the couple planned to challenge the extradition treaty on the basis that it was not incorporated into But Magistrate Steven Holzen challenged Vermeulen on the motion, saying it was a "fishing expedition" and " a shot in the dark". "Why must I waste everybody's time and grant a postponement?" he asked Vermeulen. "What proof do you have of non compliance (with the law)?" Holzen asked. Vermeulen argued that there was indeed a case as the provisions of the law had not been followed by the president. The defence argues that the extradition agreement signed by the two countries was not entered into by the president as required by the Extradition Act, but rather by the then Minister of Justice, Penuell Maduna, which they say was unlawful. In addition, they argue, the extradition agreement has not been incorporated into South African law. After a brief adjournment, Holzen granted the defence a "short postponement" so they could get an urgent High Court order staying the hearing proceedings. He further postponed the hearing to October 6 pending the High Court order. The couple's R100 000 bail was extended. Lee Rondganger The Star 06/09/06 But Magistrate Steven Holzen challenged Vermeulen on the motion, saying it was a "fishing expedition" and " a shot in the dark". "Why must I waste everybody's time and grant a postponement?" he asked Vermeulen. "What proof do you have of non compliance (with the law)?" Holzen asked. Vermeulen argued that there was indeed a case as the provisions of the law had not been followed by the president. The defence argues that the extradition agreement signed by the two countries was not entered into by the president as required by the Extradition Act, but rather by the then Minister of Justice, Penuell Maduna, which they say was unlawful. In addition, they argue, the extradition agreement has not been incorporated into South African law. After a brief adjournment, Holzen granted the defence a "short postponement" so they could get an urgent High Court order staying the hearing proceedings. He further postponed the hearing to October 6 pending the High Court order. The couple's R100 000 bail was extended.