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First Strut Chairman Murder Suspect May Face Trial Next Year

Aug. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Thulani Cele, the man accused of killing First Strut (Pty) Ltd. Chairman Jeff Wiggill in June ahead of the company’s collapse, may wait months to face trial after being released on bail six weeks ago, his attorney said.

“The trial won’t start until next year,” Boitumelo Lesomo, Cele’s lawyer, said today outside the Protea Glen Magistrate’s Court in Soweto, southwest of Johannesburg. The court’s next decision, to be taken in October, will be whether or not to move the case to the High Court, he said.

Wiggill, 54, was found shot dead next to his black Bentley on a road in Soweto on June 20, precipitating the liquidation of his company which owed about 2.5 billion rand ($241 million) to creditors. Cele, an employee of First Strut, said he didn’t kill Wiggill and wasn’t offered money to help the executive plan his own death, the Mail & Guardian newspaper reported on Aug. 16, citing an interview with Cele and his lawyers.

While Cele’s mobile telephone was confiscated following his arrest and he would like it back, according to Lesomo, the magistrate said it may still be needed by investigators.

Institutions that loaned First Strut money included Investec Plc, FirstRand Ltd., Nedbank Group Ltd. and Barclays Africa Group Ltd. Investors in First Strut’s 925 million rand of floating-rate notes due September 2016 included Investec Asset Management, Rand Merchant Bank, Stanlib Asset Management, Fairtree Capital (Pty) Ltd., Prudential Portfolio Managers and a unit of Sanlam Ltd.

Cele, who was released on bail on July 15, is due in court in Soweto again on October 4.

To contact the reporter on this story: Renee Bonorchis in Johannesburg at rbonorchis@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dale Crofts at dcrofts@bloomberg.net

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