Chief Amigo wants graft laws scrapped

2012-09-22 18:55

Amigos accused Gaston Savoi has upped the ante in his bid to scupper his corruption prosecution.

He has turned to the Constitutional Court to try and scrap the South African racketeering laws under which he is charged.

This week, Savoi’s legal team filed a challenge to the constitutionality of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca) in the Durban High Court, where it will be heard by Judge Ron McLaren if the State opposes.

The matter will then have to go to the Constitutional Court, a process which could take up to a year.

The challenge also has implications for the State’s case against Savoi in a ­similar matter in Northern Cape.

If the prosecution withdraws the racketeering charges, this further whittles down the State’s case, which is already compromised by the dropping of charges against a series of co-accused including ANC provincial heavyweights Peggy Nkonyeni and Mike Mabuyakhulu.

This also has financial implications for Savoi, whose assets, to the tune of R140 million, have been forfeited to the state.

At present, his lawyers are negotiating the release of about R70 million in assets.

Savoi, his Intaka group and a series of bureaucrats in KwaZulu-Natal and Northern Cape were arrested in four ­separate cases of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering.

They are accused of selling government oxygen equipment and water purifiers at vastly inflated prices in both provinces.

Savoi is alleged to have paid the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal R1 million for the ­contracts, awarded after normal tender procedures were bypassed, through ­co-accused and former KwaZulu-Natal treasury boss Sipho Shabalala.

In its application, Savoi’s team argued that large sections of the Poca, which was passed in 1998, are in violation of the South ­African Constitution.

They argued in their application that the definitions of racketeering and ­criminal enterprise on which the racketeering charges are based are vague, and claim that retrospective sections of the act violate section 35 of the Constitution.

Savoi claimed in his supporting affidavit that the act had been used selectively by suspended national director of public prosecutions Menzi Simelane to ­pressurise him.

“The lack of clarity and understanding about the offences in Poca means that a violation of Poca is a crime of convenience for prosecutors, as the status is too vague and unworkable to be understood and  comprehended by those who are charged under it, including myself,” Savoi said in his affidavit.

He questioned why Simelane had ­issued a racketeering certificate against him in the KwaZulu-Natal case while his replacement, Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba, had declined to do so in the Northern Cape prosecution.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has until tomorrow to file notice that it will oppose the application, which will be heard at a date set by the judge president of KwaZulu-Natal.

NPA spokesperson Bulelwa Makeke refused to comment on whether her unit would oppose the application as the ­matter was “sub judice”.

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