Court blow for Mpisane

2012-12-04 00:00

A MAJOR challenge to the tax fraud case against Durban socialite and housing boss Shauwn Mpisane has been vanquished.

The smile on prosecutor Meera Naidu’s face was wide yesterday after magistrate Blessing Msani ruled in her favour and dismissed an application by Mpisane to have all the evidence being used against her thrown out.

Naidu and investigator Martin van der Merwe hugged each other in the Durban Magistrate’s Court after enduring weeks of blazing criticism from the court and Mpisane’s advocate, Jimmy Howse.

Asked how he felt, Van der Merwe said: “Very well. I told you justice would be served.”

Msani kept his ruling brief and said he would provide reasons for his decision at the end of the trial, which has been set down for May 1. The case against Mpisane would have suffered a huge setback — or “far-reaching consequences” — if he had ruled otherwise, Msani noted.

“It can make or break each parties’ case,” was how he described it.

Mpisane’s legal team had tried to have all the evidence dismissed on the basis it was handed to the South African Revenue Service on the understanding it was protected by voluntary disclosure laws.

Naidu countered that it would have made a mockery of the country’s tax legislation if the public were able to use confidentiality agreements to escape prosecution.

The argument sent the matter into a trial-within-a-trial to contest the admissibility of the evidence on which 118 of the 119 fraud charges against Mpisane are founded.

Msani said the evidence should be subjected to the rigours of trial and could still be rejected, just not on the grounds advanced by Mpisane.

Outside the courtroom, her husband Sbu declined to comment and referred queries to their lawyer, Phila Magwaza, who was upbeat.

“We were preparing for this thing, for a worst case scenario. It [the application they lost] was simply one of the [tactics] in our arsenal we had to use. We are not feeling defeated at all.”

Both sides left with parting Christmas wishes, but it was clear that Naidu was feeling the festive spirit more.

She had been chastised by Msani throughout proceedings for delaying the court and seeming to be unprepared.

Howse had used every opportunity to point out Naidu’s tardiness and his barbs occasionally cut to the bone when he raised issues in tax law.

He was absent from court for the ruling.

The matter will first go to pre-trial conference on February 13 before trial commences.

Mpisane is accused of submitting false tax returns, invoices and VAT claims to engineer herself tax breaks. She pleaded not guilty to all counts.

She is also facing two separate charges in the Pinetown Regional Court of corruption and defeating the ends of justice, which are linked to the main trial.

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