‘Amigo hid his assets’

2010-12-03 00:00

URUGUAYAN businessman Gaston Savoi is facing a possible cancellation of his bail over allegations that he is hiding assets overseas, and one of his former co-accused in the multi-million rand tender fraud and corruption trial in KwaZulu-Natal, Ronald Geddes, has turned state witness.

These are among the latest developments in the high-profile trial in which Savoi and his company, Intaka Holdings (Intaka Inc.), is charged with supplying water purification and oxygen plants to KZN provincial hospitals at inflated prices.

Savoi and others, including ANC Northern Cape MEC John Block, face similar allegations in Kimberley.

There were some new faces in the dock in the Pietermaritzburg regional court yesterday as the prosecution joined those accused who were arrested and charged previously in Cape Town to the KZN charge sheet.

Notable by his absence was Ronald Geddes, a director of Westpro Fluid Handling Systems, who appeared behind closed doors before a local magistrate earlier this week before charges were withdrawn against him.

The Witness has confirmed that Geddes is now a state witness in the case.

Regional court magistrate Chris van Vuuren adjourned the trial to May 5 next year when the state indicated it will be ready to serve its indictment on the accused.

Acting KZN director of public prosecutions, Simphiwe Mlotshwa, thereafter revealed that the state intends to apply to court to cancel Savoi’s bail. He was granted R200 000 bail in Cape Town and R100 000 bail in the related case in Kimberley.

The reason given is that Savoi allegedly breached one of his bail conditions by “failing to make a full disclosure of assets” to a curator.

While the prosecution was set on getting a hearing by “early January” for fear that Savoi might dispose of any assets he has hidden overseas, defence advocate Kobus Booyens SC queried the rush in view of the fact that Savoi’s counsel of choice, who is based in Cape Town, will only be available on January 21.

After establishing that Savoi was not suspected to be about to “kill anyone, run away or interfere with the investigation or witnesses”, Van Vuuren adjourned the matter to that date.

Van Vuuren said the slight delay would not prejudice the state.

Booyens said the issue of whether or not Savoi was hiding assets elsewhere would be disputed.

He said he believes the application might relate to allegations that Savoi has shares in a company in the British Virgin Islands and in a family trust. He said Savoi is not the primary beneficiary of the trust in question, his father being the primary beneficiary. “He (Savoi) and his family are secondary beneficiaries.”

CURRENTLY charged in the KZN leg of the case are 15 individuals and four companies. The individuals are:

- Sipho Shabalala, the former head of the KZN Treasury and his wife, Beatrice Ntombi Shabalala;

- former KZN Health directors Busisiwe Nyembezi and Yoliswa Mbele;

- former chief financial officer for the KZN legislature, Alson Buthelezi;

- health official Victor Ntshangase;

- advocate Sandile Kuboni and three directors of the Durban law firm Kuboni & Shezi (now Kuboni Inc), Nozibele Phindela, Jabulani Thusi and Ian Blose;

- Uruguayan business associates Gaston Savoi and Ansano Romani, Savoi’s Cape Town-based associates, Fernando Praderi and Donald Miller, and businessman Lindelihle Mkhwanazi.

The companies on trial are Intaka Holdings, Mkhwanazi’s Rowmoor Investments, the Shabalala couple’s Blue Serenity Investment and Kuboni & Shezi Attorneys.

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