Savoi fights back

2011-01-22 00:00

URUGUAYAN businessman Gaston Savoi, accused of corrupt dealings with the Health Department, is fighting back against the state’s bid to cancel his R200 000 bail.

Not only is Savoi strenuously opposing the prosecution’s application to withdraw his bail, but his advocate, Francois van Zyl SC, said the businessman in fact wants to apply to have his bail conditions relaxed in order to allow him to travel. This cannot happen until the present dispute is finalised.

He said Savoi needs to travel to Brazil on business.

Savoi, who appeared in the Pietermaritzburg regional court yesterday, has filed an affidavit denying allegations that he is trying to conceal money overseas.

He said he met his obligation to disclose all his assets — three motor vehicles, a credit loan account in the Savoi Family Trust of R16 888 507, about R1 million in a Swiss bank account (which has been repatriated to South Africa), all his personal effects, and the annual financial statements of his companies in the Intaka Group.

Van Zyl submitted to regional magistrate Chris van Vuu­ren yesterday that the state’s case to cancel Savoi’s bail is based on “pure suspicion”, and that no case was made out on paper to cancel his bail.

Van Vuuren said he intends to ask the state to comment on that issue, but was not prepared to make any finding at this stage.

The case did not proceed yesterday as Savoi’s affidavit was only filed on Thursday and the court granted a request by state advocate Ncedile Dunywa for a postponement to enable the state to investigate and reply to Savoi’s claims.

Van Vuuren ruled the case will proceed on February 16 after the defence and state butted heads over the length of the proposed postponement, with the state angling for a date in March and the defence urging the court to dispose of the case urgently.

In an affidavit in support of the bid to cancel Savoi’s bail, Pricewaterhouse Coopers forensic auditor Trevor White alleges that Savoi’s Intaka Group of companies had embarked on a “series of transactions” that made no business sense and that effectively channelled money offshore, which was then lent to the Savoi Family Trust, of which Savoi is a beneficiary and trustee.

White said Hein Hattingh and Eugene Nel (curators appointed to preserve the accused’s assets on behalf of the Asset Forfeiture Unit) have not been provided with details of Swanton Enterprises Corporation, a company based in the British Virgin Islands in which Savoi is suspected to have an interest.

However, in his affidavit Savoi says categorically that neither he nor any company in the Intaka Group have any interest in Swanton.

* Savoi is one of fifteen individuals and four companies charged in KZN with tender fraud, corruption and money laundering arising from allegations that Intaka Holdings supplied water purification and oxygen plants to KZN’s provincial hospitals at inflated prices.

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