- A former bodyguard of Ace Magashule is currently on trial for the theft of a JH Pierneef painting worth millions
- Ricardo Mettle claims that the ANC secretary-general had gifted him the painting, but this allegation is currently being contested
- The painting itself is estimated to be worth around R8 million and actually belongs to the state itself
A former bodyguard of stealing a painting from the office of Ace Magashule during his time as premier of the Free State claims that the ANC secretary-general had gifted it to him. The case, against Ricardo Metler, is being heard in the Free State High Court based in Bloemfontein and involves a JH Pierneef painting which was removed from Magashule's office two years ago.
The painting belongs to the Free State government and was valued at around R8 million at the time of its disappearance.
But the former bodyguard insists that Magashule had given it to him, along with other gifts, when he had left the premier's office.
Mettler claims that the painting had at first gone unnoticed, left in a pile of items that Magashule had 'donated' to him, only later realising that it was a high-value art piece.
Mettler insists that he had not been aware that it belonged to the state, pointing out that the usual bar code that would have brought his attention to this had been missing.
The painting had been handed to businessman Wei-Lin as surety when Mettler had asked to loan over R2 million from him.
News24 reports that Wei-Lin had reached out to an auction house to establish the painting's value, origins and ownership.
The auction house had included an image of the painting in an advertisement for an auction, which had caught the attention of an art buyer who in turn alerted officials that the painting may have been stolen.
Netwerk24 reported that Magashule had testified that he wasn't aware of the artist, denying that he would give state assets away as gifts.
The secretary-general went on to claim that he had asked Mettler about the painting but the bodyguard had denied seeing any bar code on the item:
"I specifically asked about the painting and he said it did not have a bar code."
Earlier, Briefly.co.za reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has allegedly visited Ace Magashule's ex-secretary Moroadi Cholota in the United States.
This forms part of ongoing probes into the pair's alleged connection to the R255 million asbestos scandal.
A letter reportedly written by Magashule's lawyer Victor Nkhwashu, who had represented Cholota in the past, revealed that the visit had taken place.
TimesLIVE reported that the letter had been addressed to Hawks boss Gen Godfrey Lebeya, NPA head Shamila Batohi and NPA investigating directorate head Hermione Cronje.
Cash-flaunting man Moses Kgomo flagged as alleged tender fraudster Magashule's lawyer confirmed in the letter that Cholota was allegedly visited by the FBI in the US where she is currently studying.
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