‘Amigos’ fail to persuade judge

2013-05-18 00:00

“AMIGOS” corruption trial accused Gaston Savoi and two co-accused have failed to persuade a judge that the legislation under which they are charged is “unconsitutional” and will deny them a fair trial.

Savoi, his company Intaka Holdings and co-accused Fernando Praderi launched a pre-trial application in the Pietermaritzburg high court in March, challenging the constitutionality of sections of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA), in particular the “racketeering” laws under which they stand charged, on grounds including that they are “too broad” and open to manipulation.

In a reserved judgment, Judge Isaac Madondo found that “on the whole, the POCA is a valid enactment under the constitution and the rule of law”.

He said that it is not only the rights and values of the individual that must be emphasised by law, but those of the community as well.

“This means that the constitutional state is not only involved in upholding and protecting the traditional individual rights and values, but also has to establish and re-affirm community rights and values,” he said.

Madondo did rule, however, that a requirement under the racketeering laws that a person “ought reasonably to have known that his conduct would constitute an offence of racketeering” was confusing and vague, and declared those four paragraphs unconstitutional.

Madondo said there was nothing to suggest that the criminal proceedings against Savoi and his co-accused are — or will be — tainted, or that they had been “arbitrarily targeted”.

According to the state, they were charged under POCA because the state believes there is a proper case for them to answer, he said.

Savoi and his co-accused had also not produced proof of conduct which has impacted on the fairness of their trial, the judge said.

In these circumstances, he said, it was impossible for the court to establish if alleged interference has or might occur.

Madondo said that the facts of the case did not show that the definitions of a “pattern of racketeering activity” and “enterprise” were an invasion of constitutionally protected rights.

He agreed with the state that POCA was neccessary because of the diversity of criminal activities occuring within “complex organisational structures where the lines of authority are deliberately obscured”.

• Currently, 11 accused (including Savoi) remain on trial in the Amigos case, the numbers having dwindled from an initial 23. They are charged with racketeering, corruption and fraud relating to tenders awarded for the supply of water purification and oxygen plans to the KZN Health and Local Government departments.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Bulelwa Makeke said that the NPA generally welcomed the outcome of yesterday’s judgment, but needed to study it before giving a detailed response.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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