Savoi may try to flee if bail conditions eased, investigator tells court

2011-10-19 00:00

THE lead investigator in KwaZulu-Natal in the corruption trial of Uruguayan businessman Gaston Savoi and others believes that Savoi might flee the country if his bail conditions are relaxed to enable him to travel to Germany to attend a global pharmaceutical fair in Frankfurt this month.

Savoi also wishes to travel to Brazil and Argentina to meet prospective business clients.

The application will be opposed by the state when it comes before regional court magistrate Chris van Vuuren today.

In an affidavit filed with the court yesterday KZN investigator Petrus (Piet) du Plooy, of the SAPS commercial branch in Durban, contended that Savoi is a flight risk because the circumstances under which his initial bail of R200 000 was granted have changed.

He said that when Savoi was arrested on August 25 last year and given bail he faced only one count of fraud.

He was arrested again in the Northern Cape last November where he faces further charges of corruption, fraud and racketeering.

Du Plooy said the state has more evidence now against Savoi than when he was given bail, including a forensic report and statements made by former co-accused in the matter, Anson Romani and Ronald Miller, who entered plea agreements with the state recently and implicated Savoi in the corruption and fraud charges they faced. A similar plea agreement was entered into by one of Savoi’s co-accused in the Northern Cape.

Du Plooy said the state case in the (KZN) matter is “trial ready” and has been postponed to January next year for a trial date to be set.

Savoi and his co-accused were served with a final indictment relating to the KZN charges on August 1 this year and the Northern Cape indictment was served on September 30.

Du Plooy said Savoi is a foreigner who has family and business ties abroad and faces “very serious charges that carry minimum life sentences”.

“[Savoi] has alleged that he makes two to three million rand profit in just one of his business entities and he will not find it difficult to start a life elsewhere and abandon the restrained property,” said Du Plooy, referring to Savoi’s assets that have been frozen by the Asset Forfeiture Unit.

Du Plooy said that if Savoi does not stand his trial there is a likelihood of prejudice to the state, the complainants in the case, and the other accused who are entitled to a speedy trial.

“The processes of extradition could take anything between four months to a year, talking about just a simple extradition that has no hiccups,”he said.

Du Plooy also contends that Savoi ought to have approached the court much earlier with his application, instead of waiting until the month of his proposed trip to Germany.

He said Savoi was well aware that he had to apply to court for a relaxation of his bail conditions to be allowed to travel outside South Africa. Yet when he made a request to travel to Angola in June this year, he never raised wanting to also travel to Frankfurt.

Under the circumstances Du Plooy submitted that the application ought to also be dismissed “for lack of urgency”.

In his affidavit Savoi claims that even though he succeeded in obtaining permission from the court in June to fly to Angola, his bid to do so was “maliciously” thwarted when he was threatened with arrest.

He further alleged that although state representatives in KZN were mainly “reasonable” concerning bail issues, the same could not be said of investigators and the director of public prosecutions in the Northern Cape where his application to travel to Angola was opposed.

On this occasion too he has applied to the court in Kimberly as well as KZN to travel to Germany, Argentina and Brazil.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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