Johannesburg - Oscar Pistorius has racked up lawyers’ bills amounting to R17.5m - and he cannot pay them, City Press reports.
The athlete, sentenced to five years in jail on Tuesday for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, is broke and still owes his lawyers in the region of R10m.
City Press understands that 27-year-old Pistorius’ financial situation is so dire that his high-powered legal team - led by Advocate Barry Roux SC, and which included Advocate Kenny Oldwage and attorney Brian Webber – has been representing him free of charge for at least the past two months.
A source close to the Pistorius family said his legal bill now stands at R17.5m, and about R10m is still outstanding.
During his closing arguments before Pistorius’ sentencing this week, Roux told the North Gauteng High Court and Judge Thokozile Masipa that his client had “no further funds available and is in fact hopelessly in debt as a consequence of the incident and the duration of the trial”.
“He has for some time now had no more funds to pay for his outstanding legal fees and costs, and is living in the house of his uncle.”
However, City Press understands the family is not keen to pay the bill and a dispute is brewing over it.
A source close to the family said there was “definitely great unhappiness” about the legal fees which were “much higher” than the family expected.
Pistorius’ uncle, Arnold Pistorius, has told family members he is considering having the bill “taxed and assessed”.
Any client unhappy with their legal costs can approach the Taxing Master of the court for a “taxation of costs”. The legal team would need to justify the reasonableness of the costs being claimed, and the issue is then decided by the Taxing Master.
A source close to the legal team says Arnold Pistorius has refused to cover the outstanding amount, believing his nephew should be responsible for the bill.
But Pistorius – who was estimated to earn about R20 m a year before the 2012 London Olympics – has no more money, so the bill has been sent to his uncle.
City Press understands there was tension between Roux and Arnold Pistorius, who tried to influence the direction of the case but was told to butt out. A source close to the legal team said his opinion was not welcome, given his refusal to settle outstanding fees.
However, the dispute over the bill may not end up in a fight.
A confidant of Barry Roux’s told City Press Roux “is a stayer and not the kind of person to walk away from the case”.
“Barry has said not everything is about money, and he is extremely doubtful he will ever see what he is owed,” the confidant said.
Roux declined to comment on the bill last week. Pistorius family spokesperson Anneliese Burgess said Arnold Pistorius was out of town and she was unable to alert him to City Press’s enquiry.
The State has another week to decide whether they will appeal Judge Thokozile Masipa’s judgment, which found Pistorius not guilty of murder but guilty of the lesser charge of culpable homicide. On Friday, Wits law professor James Grant tweeted that prosecutor Gerrie Nel had asked for his advice on whether the state should appeal.
“I can confirm that Advocate Nel has consulted me for advice and assistance if he appeals. I have advised that he should appeal and agreed to assist,” he said.
Should an appeal go ahead, Pistorius will need his lawyers and it remains to be seen whether Roux will continue with the case.
Preparing for prison
A source close to the Pistorius family said his lawyers spent a considerable amount of time preparing the athlete for a prison sentence.
And a source close to the legal team said Pistorius received the sentence Roux expected, and that Roux told Pistorius the public would never forgive him if he did not serve some time behind bars.
Pistorius, the family source said, has also accepted that his athletics career is over and that he will never participate again. He hasn’t trained for 18 months.
City Press understands that the R17.5m legal bill consists not only of Roux’s legal fees and that of his team, but also some of the experts who testified in Pistorius’ defence during the trial.
Earlier this year Pistorius sold his home in the Silver Woods Country Estate where he shot Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year, making a profit of less than R1m. He also sold two smaller properties in Pretoria East’s Weeping Willows Estate for less than R600 000, and a vacant lot in the West Coast town of Langebaan, north of Cape Town, for R1.1m.
Pistorius also sold his car for R375 000 - initially to give the money to Steenkamp’s parents in compensation for the loss of their daughter. However, June and Barry Steenkamp rejected this money, saying they didn’t want anything from him. The couple, whose R6 000 monthly rent for their house in Port Elizabeth was paid by Pistorius, have dropped their lawsuit against him.
“We half depended on the man who shot our daughter but we didn’t have any other choice,” June Steenkamp told You Magazine in an interview published last week. They also reportedly said they would repay Pistorius all the money they received from him.