Concourt rules ‘amigos’ trial was not unfair

2014-03-21 00:00

THE Constitutional Court has ruled that legislation under which the so-called “amigos” corruption trial accused, Gaston Savoi and two co-accused, are charged is not unconstitutional and will not render their trial unfair.

The Constitutional Court judgment, handed down yesterday, gives the green light to the state to proceed with the trial against Savoi and 10 others in the case.

They are charged with racketeering, corruption, money laundering and infringements of the Public Finance Management Act.

The case is expected to proceed in the high court in Durban in January next year.

Savoi, his company Intaka Holdings and co-accused, Fernando Praderi, launched a pre-trial application in the Pietermaritzburg high court last year, in which their lawyers challenged the constitutionality of sections of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca).

They attacked the “racketeering” laws under which the accused were charged on a number of grounds, including that they were “too broad” and were open to manipulation.

In yesterday’s judgment, the Constitutional Court found in a unanimous judgment that the definition of “pattern of racketeering activity” was quite clear and therefore was not void for vagueness.

The court ruled that while laws must be written in clear and accessible terms, this does not require perfect lucidity.

“The acceptable standard is no higher than reasonable certainty. The impugned provisions meet this standard,” it ruled.

The Constitutional Court also ruled that a trial is not automatically rendered unfair purely because of the admission of evidence that is ordinarily inadmissible.

This was a matter best left for the trial court to decide based on the evidence before it, it said.

It also disagreed with a finding by Pietermaritzburg high court Judge Isaac Madondo that certain paragraphs of the Poca were unconstitutional to the extent that they contained the words “ought reasonably to have known”, and dismissed all the arguments that the legislation did not comply with the Constitution.

The case against Savoi and his co-accused relate to the supply of water purification and oxygen plants to the KwaZulu-Natal Health and Local Government departments.

The state alleges that Savoi and his company, Intaka, won the tenders for the supplies by corrupt means.

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