Block to stay another night in jail

2010-11-09 20:09
Kimberley - ANC Northern Cape leader John Block will sleep one more night in a police holding cell on Tuesday night after the Kimberley Magistrate's Court postponed its bail judgment on Tuesday.

Magistrate Lance Roach postponed his judgment on the bail applications of Block's and businessman Gaston Savoi, owner of Intaka Holdings, to 10:00 on Wednesday.

The two will stay in custody.

Block, Savoi and seven others face fraud charges on alleged tender fraud estimated at R112m.

The allegations against them relate to the purchase of water purification equipment from Intaka at allegedly inflated prices in 2005 and 2006.

'Politically too powerful'

Earlier, National Prosecuting Authority head Menzi Simelane argued that Block was politically too powerful to be released from custody as he would intimidate witnesses.

He also argued that Block had lied to the court about previous convictions against him.

Block's legal counsel Salie Joubert submitted that the matter referred to was a theft case Block was involved in when he was 21-years-old.

"This is no longer an issue because it fell was more than 10 years ago."

Joubert submitted Block could not even remember if he had been warned or received a suspended sentence at the time.

Block's defence also told Magistrate Roach the State's case in refusing Block bail was "more of an emotional outcry to you, not to grant bail".

Joubert said there was no evidence in the State's papers that Block would be a flight risk or that he would intimidate witnesses.

"Further investigation is no reason why bail should not be granted." Earlier, Savoi's legal counsel Jeremy Muller submitted that the State had no problem with him being released on a warning in KwaZulu-Natal, after bail was set at R200 000 during a court appearance in Bellville, earlier.

Flight risk questioned

Muller said the State had in the meantime allowed Savoi to travel to France after handing him his passport.

"He came back anyway."

Muller also submitted it was difficult to establish "what had changed since then".

He said Savoi was determined to stand trial and it was "unclear" why he was a flight risk as the State alleged.

Simelane argued that Savoi was a "wealthy" man and could leave the country at any moment.

The State submitted that Savoi did not need his business in South Africa to survive as he had many business interests in other African countries and further abroad.

Simelane submitted the situation regarding Savoi had changed considerably since his last appearance in court as he now knew the State had a strong case.

"The State believes in its case, it is sure of securing a conviction that might give a huge sentence."

In replying, Muller denied that Savoi had contravened his bail conditions by not declaring all his assets to the State.

Court packed with ANC supporters

He said the State's allegations of offshore bank accounts not declared and interest in another family trust was misleading.

Muller said Savoi had no direct legal interests in these mentioned entities anymore.

The Kimberley court room was packed with ANC supporters who filled every available space on Tuesday. Outside in the street a huge tent was erected for supporters to gather in and await news on the case.

Northern Cape Premier Hazel Jenkins and several provincial MECs were at court, with Jenkins sitting in the public gallery wedged between Block's wife and his mother.

Seven of the accused were granted bail last week to appear again in court on March 18  2011.

On Tuesday, the official opposition in the Northern Cape, Cope, criticised Jenkins for "shutting down the provincial parliament".

The party said in a statement neither Jenkins nor her officials showed up for a scheduled committee meeting to discuss her office's 2009/10 annual report.

"A notice was issued on Tuesday morning cancelling the meeting with no reasons provided," the statement read.

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