Court okays Savoi’s trip

2011-10-21 00:00

REGIONAL court magistrate Chris van Vuuren ruled yesterday that there is insufficient reason to find that the interests of justice or society will not be served by allowing corruption accused Gaston Savoi to undertake a business trip to Germany, Argentina and Brazil from tomorrow to November 4.

Granting him permission to make the trip, Van Vuuren said the “fine line” that the state crossed recently with the serving of indictments on Savoi is not sufficient reason to find that he now poses a flight risk.

Van Vuuren was critical of one of the investigating officers, Colonel Clarence Jones, whose actions in threatening to arrest Savoi in defiance of two court orders permitting him to travel to Angola in June, displayed a “glaringly, obvious obstructive attitude”.

The Northern Cape High Court voiced similar concerns about Colonel Jones’s attitude in a judgment on October 7, said Van Vuuren.

He said what worries him is how far Jones’s “deplorable attitude” might have permeated through to all officials involved in opposing Savoi’s latest application to travel abroad. “In other words is the application being opposed for obstructive reasons, or as a genuine concern that [Savoi] has now become a flight risk?” he asked.

“The unexplained actions of Colonel Jones has caused a cloud to hang over the [state’s] application, creating doubt as to the true motive. This is most regrettable,” he added.

Another regrettable feature of the matter was the “pointing of fingers between various factions in the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] involved in the investigation”.

He said it is difficult for a court to determine certain important issues when the investigation unit is divided.

This was a reference to an allegation by the state that KZN investigator Colonel Piet du Plooy’s hands were “tied” by an agreement between the Asset Forfeiture Unit and Savoi that prevented Du Plooy from objecting to Savoi’s proposed Angolan trip in June.

The alleged agreement was to the effect that the money Savoi sourced in Angola would be paid over to the state and restrained.

Van Vuuren said that regardless of any agreements reached between Savoi and the AFU it was clearly open to the investigating officer to raise his concern had he deemed Savoi to be a flight risk.

Indeed Jones “certainly did not deem his hands to be tied in this regard”, Van Vuuren added.

Savoi’s legal team were busy yesterday with a similar application by Savoi in Kimberley, where he faces similar charges to those in KZN, for permission to undertake the trip.

Both the courts have to agree to a relaxation of his bail conditions in order to enable Savoi to travel abroad since the matters are being prosecuted separately.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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