Pretoria – Software designed to “shred” electronic documents was used to delete files on former NPA prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach’s laptop, the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court heard on Thursday.
Cyber forensic investigator Jaco Venter testified that he found a folder of deletions, which did not appear in the recycle bin.
Venter was testifying in the trial of Breytenbach and her former lawyer, Gerhard Wagenaar, on four charges of contravening the NPA Act and two of defeating the ends of justice.
Breytenbach faces two additional charges of fraud and perjury.
Wagenaar allegedly refused to hand over her laptop, which was believed to contain evidence relevant to a misconduct case the National Prosecuting Authority had been investigating against her. She maintained she only deleted personal information.
Venter said on April 30 2012, at 16:09 a deletions folder was created. A memory stick was inserted at 16:18 and an attempt was made to install file shredder software on the laptop. It tried to install itself on the computer, but it was not successful.
On May 2, a total of 580 files were shredded during a 20-minute gap when the computer was switched off.
“It means someone had to remove the hard drive for the shredding to take place,” he said.
Venter downloaded the same software to see what it was. He discovered it had 10 different levels. The one used on the laptop had one of the highest security features, to ensure the documents could not be recovered.
The software removes the original content and replaces it with random, unreadable characters of the same size.
When he learned later that the NPA had a backup system, he was able to recover the shredded documents.
Defence lawyer Barry Roux questioned if there was an attempt to shred documents on the server. Venter said the shredding was only restricted to the laptop.
The matter was adjourned to October 3.
Breytenbach was suspended from the NPA on April 30, 2012. She claimed this was done to stop her from prosecuting former police crime intelligence head Lieutenant General Richard Mdluli on charges of fraud and corruption.
She challenged her suspension in the Labour Court and lost.
The NPA subsequently held a disciplinary hearing. On May 27, 2013, she was cleared of all 15 disciplinary charges brought against her. The charges included failing to act impartially while investigating a mining rights issue involving Kumba Iron Ore, Sishen, and Imperial Crown Trading.
After a 26-year career, Breytenbach resigned from the NPA in January 2014 to join the DA. She subsequently became an MP for the party.