‘Amigos’: Corruption charges withdrawn

2012-10-02 00:00

AFRICAN National Congress politicians Mike Mabuyakhulu and Peggy Nkonyeni are officially off the hook on corruption charges relating to the so-called “Amigos” trial.

State advocate Ncedile Dunywa formally withdrew the charges in the high court in Durban yesterday against Mabuyakhulu, MEC for Economic Development, Nkonyeni, the KZN Legislature speaker, five of their co-accused and three companies.

Democratic Alliance leader in the KZN legislature, Sizwe Mchunu, said the DA wanted to know why the charges were withdrawn.

“We believe that every citizen of this province deserves an answer to that question too,” he said.

Mchunu said the DA was committed to obtaining the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA)records of its decision in the cases of Nkonyeni and Mabuyakhulu.

“We are not deterred, despite our initial request for these documents being turned down, and have submitted a formal public access to information application.

“The NPA has acknowledged receiving the application and has 30 working days to respond,” he said.

The others against whom the state dropped charges are former Health Department head Yolisa Mbele, Lindelihle Mkhwanazi, a businessman and friend of Nkonyeni, and lawyers Nozibele Phindela, Jabulani Thusi and Ian Blose.

But Thusi remains in the dock as a representative of an accused company, Kuboni & Shezi Attorneys.

Charges against Rowmoor Investments, Skyros Medical Suppliers and Blue Serenity Investments were also withdrawn.

Dunywa said the accused had been notified in writing that the state intended to withdraw the charges. He did not give any reasons in court.

The intention to withdraw the charges was made public on August 18, and came hot on the heels of speculation of a political fallout between the former acting KZN Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Simphiwe Mlotshwa, and his NPA bosses over his alleged refusal to withdraw the charges against Mabuyakhulu and Nkonyeni.

At the time, KZN DPP spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson said the charges were dropped by the new acting DPP, Moipone Noko, because she felt there was no prospect of a successful prosecution.

Judge Ron McLaren said yesterday a new trial date of July 29, 2013, had been agreed for the trial to continue against the remaining nine accused and two companies.

An application to bring a constitutional challenge about the validity of racketeering charges against wealthy Uruguayan businessman Gaston Savoi and his company, Intaka Holdings, has been set down for hearing by McLaren in the high court in Durban on December 11 and 12. If it succeeds, the issue will be referred to the Constitutional Court for a ruling.

A further application by Savoi concerning the fairness of the trial may also be brought if ongoing negotiations between the state and defence fall through.

These were among the reasons for deciding to move the trial date from March to the end of July next year. McLaren said this would also allow time for any appeals to be dealt with before the trial got under way.

Nkonyeni’s spokesperson, Wonder Hlongwa, said she would not comment on the withdrawal of charges, while Mabuyakhulu’s spokesperson could not be reached.

THE accused remaining on trial are: Gaston Savoi, Sipho Shabalala (former head of the KZN Treasury), Busisiwe Nyembezi ( former head of the KZN Health Department), Victor Ntshangase, Alson Buthelezi, Ronald Green-Thompson (retired head of the KZN Health Department), businessman Fernando Praderi, lawyer Sandile Kuboni and Beatrice Shabalala (Sipho Shabalala’s wife). The companies still in the dock are Intaka Holdings (Pty) Ltd and Kuboni & Shezi Attorneys.

The accused were originally indicted on 54 charges of racketeering, corruption and money laundering.

The charges arose from allegely corrupt tenders awarded to Intaka for the purchase and hire of water purification plants and oxygen self-generating equipment supplied to government hospitals between 2004 and 2007.

The state alleged in its original indictment that Savoi was the “leader, co-manager and controlling mind” behind a criminal enterprise in which all the other accused participated.

— Court Reporter.

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