Champagne pops as Shauwn Mpisane walks free

2014-01-15 12:17

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Shauwn Mpisane walked out of the Durban Commercial Crime Court a free woman today after the State withdrew 53 charges of fraud and forgery against her.

Bottles of champagne were popped as she and her husband S’bu left the building and entered their white Rolls Royce, parked outside the court entrance and guarded by armed security guards who accompanied the throng of supporters.

Mpisane said he was “relieved” that the case, brought after she allegedly used forged documents to secure a Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) grading in order secure tenders valued at about R140 million from provincial government departments.

She will now get back assets valued at R70 million – including R28 million in cash – which have been restrained by the Asset Forfeiture Unit since she was arrested over the five school and clinic tenders issued by the public works department last year to her company Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance and Transport.

Last Friday – the deadline for the State to provide further particulars to the defence ahead of the one-month trial set to commence on January 21 – Mpisane’s lawyer, Shaukat Karim, received a letter from State prosecutor Wendy O’Brien asking them to appear in court today so that the State could withdraw the charges.

She now faces one more hurdle in her bid to have the State’s series of fraud and corruption cases set aside. On January 29, she will hear whether her representations to the national director of public prosecutions to have that case – in which she allegedly inflated her VAT expenditure to secure a fraudulent refund of R4.7 million – set aside, are successful.

Mpisane made the representations after prosecutor Meera Naidu was removed from the case and suspended for alleged prosecutorial misconduct. The SA Revenue Service (Sars) auditor who requested that the criminal case be opened, Waheeda Osman, has also been nailed for alleged misconduct in suppressing evidence which showed that Mpisane was in fact tax compliant.

Sars has also subsequently issued Mpisane with a tax compliance certificate, sparking speculation that the State’s case against her and her company has collapsed.

Mpisane, dressed in yellow and white and sporting dark glasses, was greeted by a crowd of supporters and employees who had gathered outside the court in anticipation of the withdrawal of the charges.

Karim said while the State could in theory reopen the case, it was “highly unlikely” as they had been unable to “get their ducks in a row” and present a forensic report and other evidence necessary for the trial to continue.

NPA spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson confirmed that the case had been withdrawn because the state was unable to finalise a forensic report to back up the tender fraud charges.

“The reason for the withdrawal is incomplete forensic investigations that couldn’t be finalised by the deadline of this afternoon. This deadline was given to the state by the magistrate. It is for this reason that the state had to withdraw charges,” she said.

» This story was updated after first published to add the NPA’s comment.

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