Shauwn passes the buck

2012-06-16 00:00

brett horner

KWAZULU-NATAL housing tycoon Mabongi Shauwn Mpisane finally got the chance yesterday to stick the boot into her accusers and launched a full-scale attack on the man slated to bring her down.

With 118 counts of fraud and another for contravening the Close Corporations Act hanging over her head, the Durban socialite’s defence team wasted no time in targeting her former bookkeeper Kishal Reddy, who is being touted as the prosecution’s ace witness.

The Durban Regional Court at last got to hear Mpisane (37) plead not guilty to all the charges following one delay after another since Monday.

Her advocate, Wim Trengove SC, immediately set about discrediting Reddy, who pleaded guilty last year to forging suppliers’ invoices, criminal acts he claimed were done at the behest of Mpisane.

He was sentenced in July to six months in jail or a fine of R30 000, which he paid.

According to Mpisane’s plea explanation, Reddy was hired as an accountant in October 2008 to handle the books of her close corporation Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance and Transport, which at the time was scoring large housing contracts from government, mostly eThekwini Municipality.

Reddy’s appointment followed a turning point for the business when sales rocketed from R34 million in 2007 to R120 million in 2008, establishing Mpisane and her husband Sbu as the new darlings among the city’s nouveau riche.

Their fortune came courtesy of close links to the city’s political elite, including former municipal manager Mike Sutcliffe, who with the likes of axed police commissioner Bheki Cele enjoyed the lavish hospitality synonymous with the Mpisanes’ Umhlanga mansion.

Cele himself attended court on the first day to lend his support to the couple.

In her plea, Mpisane says Reddy’s work was found to be “in shambles” by another tax practitioner, Trevor Dalton, brought on board in February 2010 to assist.

Before long, “Dalton became suspicious about the authenticity of suppliers’ invoices Mr Reddy had given him in substantiation of purchases” made in the 2008 financial year.

The state’s case is that these were the invoices Mpisane told Reddy to forge so as to tie in with false financial statements and income tax returns, all designed to allegedly deliver about R4,7 million in tax breaks.

Mpisane denies this in her plea, insisting Reddy went ahead on his own.

She admits the invoices were forged, but claims no knowledge of this at the time and further denies misrepresenting her financial affairs to the SA Revenue Service (SARS).

In a similar vein, she claims her 2010 VAT returns, which understated her company’s liability to SARS, were the work of Reddy alone, something she discovered only after her returns were filed by him.

When Reddy takes the stand for the state, he is expected to argue that he was following orders from his former boss.

His chance will come when the trial starts hearing evidence for the first time on October 22.

The first witness for the state will be Waheeda Osman, an employee in the SARS Durban audit section.

Three weeks have been cleared in the court diary to complete the matter.

So far the prosecution team, led by Meera Naidu, has appeared on the back foot.

Instead of leading witnesses this week, they were hit with an application by Mpisane to furnish further particulars after revising the charge sheet two weeks before the trial.

They opposed the application but lost.

But Mpisane is likely to be without the expertise of Trengove, who indicated to Magistrate Blessing Msani he would more than likely be unavailable in October.

Arguing in his place will be advocate Jimmy Howse.

• brett.horner@witness.co.za

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