Savoi bail conditions amended

2011-12-01 13:45

Controversial Uruguayan businessman Gaston Savoi has succeeded in having his bail conditions amended, allowing him to travel to countries South Africa does not have extradition agreements with.

In a unanimous judgment handed down by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) today, Judge Jonathan Heher found there was a “clear abuse of power” by senior Hawks investigators who attempted to “thwart” court orders allowing Savoi to travel to Angola this year.

Savoi is facing charges of fraud, corruption and racketeering after he allegedly paid bribes to senior public servants in KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape – including former ANC Northern Cape chairperson John Block – in exchange for water purification contracts.

Savoi subsequently had some R140 million of his assets seized by the National Prosecuting Authority.

He launched an application in July to have his bail conditions amended so that he could travel to Angola and “personally deal” with problems relating to contracts for water purification plants he concluded with the Angolan government.

Former National Director of Public Prosecutions Menzi Simelane later told City Press that he had suspended Knorx Molelle, the Asset Forfeiture Unit boss in KwaZulu-Natal, because he had allegedly “cut deals” with Savoi over the visit.

Although Savoi’s original bail conditions allowed him to leave the country with written permission, Hawks investigators refused to allow him to travel to Angola.

This was despite two magistrates court orders Savoi had obtained giving him permission for the trip to Angola.

The orders were overturned by the Northern Cape High Court and Savoi took the matter to the SCA.

Heher found that “the absence of an extradition treaty with a given country is of itself meaningless; it only becomes meaningful if there is a reason to believe that the accused will take advantage of it [to avoid attending court]”.

Heher said there was “no expression of doubt as to the intention of [Savoi] to stand his trial” because he had left and returned to South Africa over fifty times since becoming aware of the police investigation into his dealings.

Heher said Savoi’s family lived in Cape Town, he had invested “heavily” in immovable property in South Africa and there was frequent correspondence between his legal team and the police.

The court ordered that the investigating officer return Savoi’s passport to him for travel within 24 hours of receiving notification from him that he intends to travel.

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