More ‘Amigos’ witnesses sing

2011-10-01 16:26

More of the men accused in the so-called Amigos corruption, racketeering and fraud case are expected to seek plea bargains before the trial starts in January.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga told City Press this week that further plea agreements “could not be ruled out and that discussions with legal teams representing the remaining 21 accused were expected to take place”.

Mhaga’s comments come after two of the accused, Ansano Romani and Donald Miller, pleaded guilty before Pietermaritzburg Regional Court Magistrate Riaan de Wet on Thursday.

They agreed to turn state witness against their fellow accused in return for fines and an eight-year jail sentence each.

Romani (64) and Miller (58) both pleaded guilty to knowingly providing fraudulent cover quotes to help Uruguayan businessman Gaston Savoi and a network of government officials defraud the KwaZulu-Natal health department by massively inflating the cost of water purification units.

They were also fined R100 000 each, half of which was suspended for five years.

They will pay the R50 000 each in monthly instalments of R10 000.

In their plea, Romani and Miller said they had met Savoi and his colleague, Fernando Praderi, in 2004 while they were working for Grotto Defranceschi, a company that manufactures components for water-purification plants for Intaka Investments, which is owned by Savoi.

Two years later, Savoi and Praderi asked them to get quotes for water plants for two KwaZulu-Natal hospitals from Westpro and Imvusa, where Miller was then working, after being retrenched.

Miller and Ronald Geddes of Westpro, who they knew, agreed to provide two cover quotes on a template written up by Romani, quoting R6 million per unit – R4 million more than the actual price.

In their plea, both men admitted that the quotes were never meant to be genuine and were aimed at getting the health department to pay Intaka inflated prices.

As part of the agreement, both agreed to give the state all documentation they have regarding the corruption case, to help the prosecution with further investigations, and to become state witnesses against the remaining accused.

The Savoi party and his fellow accused – including Sipho Shabalala, the former boss at provincial development bank Ithala, KwaZulu-Natal economic affairs MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu and KwaZulu-Natal legislature speaker Peggy Nkonyeni – will appear in court again in January next year for a trial date to be set.

They face 54 charges of fraud, corruption, racketeering and money- laundering.

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