Bungling in Savoi case

2011-02-17 00:00

THE state’s bid to withdraw bail from corruption accused Gaston Savoi came to an abrupt halt yesterday when it came to light that, due to administrative bungling by the prosecution, Savoi is not on bail in connection with the charges he faces in Pietermaritzburg.

Savoi was granted R200 000 bail on various conditions when he first appeared in court in Bellville immediately after his arrest last October.

But when that case was transferred and joined to the case in Pietermaritzburg, the court was asked by the state to release Savoi on warning.

Regional magistrate Chris van Vuuren pointed out yesterday that the Bellville case no longer existed. He questioned what had happened to Savoi’s bail in that matter and whether he even has jurisdiction to hear the state’s application to cancel Savoi’s bail in these circumstances.

State advocate Ncedile Dunywa reluctantly conceded that the state had made a “grave mistake”, even though the intention had been to avoid a “duplication” of bail.

The administrative bungling caused the state to withdraw its application to cancel Savoi’s bail and instead negotiate a new bail agreement with his lawyers.

In terms of the agreement — which was sanctioned by Van Vuuren — Savoi was again given bail of R200 000 on the same conditions as before save for a provision that he must make a “complete disclosure” of all his assets to a curator bonis by March 4, this year.

Another condition is that he must repatriate all foreign funds he holds to South Africa where they will be held in trust by his attorneys as long as his bail remains in place.

Whether these conditions are “constitutional” will become an issue if the state again applies to the court in future to cancel Savoi’s bail on the grounds that he is hiding assets overseas.

Van Vuuren questioned yesterday whether it is constitutional for the state to impose a condition on an accused which in effect “forced” him to assist the state.

He said in his view bail is meant only to ensure that an accused will stand his trial and not interfere with state witnesses or the investigation. It is not intended to be used by the state to force an accused to co-operate with its investigations.

The magistrate said that if the court is faced with any future application by the state to cancel Savoi’s bail, he will need legal argument on that point.

The state’s initial application to cancel Savoi’s bail was based on an allegation that he is hiding money overseas in contravention of his bail conditions.

Savoi is one of 15 individuals and four companies charged in KwaZulu-Natal with tender fraud and corruption linked to allegations that his company, Intaka Holdings, supplied water purification and oxygen plants to KZN’s provincial hospitals at inflated prices.

The hearing has been postponed to May 5.

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