Forfeiture unit wants millions in assets from ANC bigwig Block, businessman Scholtz

2016-01-25 21:35
John Block.

John Block.

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Kimberley - The judge presiding over the Trifecta case, involving former ANC bigwig John Block and businessman Christo Scholtz, has ruled that an application by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) must first be concluded before sentencing can begin.

The two were convicted of money laundering and corruption last year. The AFU wants assets it deems proceeds of crime to be confiscated. This includes a guest house in Upington, which they allege Block upgraded with money he received from the Trifecta deals, amounting to R2.7m.

Block, along with Scholtz, were found guilty in October last year on charges of fraud and corruption. The case related to the lease of buildings to the Northern Cape social development department on behalf of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa). The department rented buildings owned by Trifecta in several towns, including Kimberley, Upington and Springbok.

The state proved Block had used his political influence to secure lease tenders for Trifecta at exorbitant prices and received kickbacks from the company for his efforts.

Block’s defence was that he was not employed by the state when the crimes were committed. He also indicated that the money he received from Trifecta were salaries he drew as a consultant.

Prejudice the accused

The AFU has applied for a draft order to confiscate Scholtz's assets, estimated to be in the region of between R600m to R700m.

The defence – led by Jaap Cilliers – argued that the AFU’s application was flawed. Cilliers said the application should be brought before sentencing procedures start as this was needed by the defence to argue in mitigation of sentencing. It had asked the court to dismiss the application or to postpone sentencing procedures as this would prejudice the accused.

Judge Mathebe Phatshoane told the court that going ahead with sentencing could infringe on the rights of the accused. She postponed the case until May 3 when the AFU’s application will be heard. She also ordered that the state file their heads of arguments on February 24 and the defence theirs by March 25.

The state’s heads must include the assets it wanted confiscated as well as the reason it deemed them to be the proceeds of crime.

Once regarded as the most powerful man in the Northern Cape, former provincial ANC chairperson and economic development MEC, Block arrived at the Kimberley High court on Monday alone, having driven himself.

ANC showed support for Block

In contrast to previous court appearance, there were few people waiting for him. The public gallery at the court, however, filled up quickly. Among those in support of Block was former co-accused, ANC deputy treasurer and MEC for co-operative governance and traditional affairs, Alvin Botes. He was acquitted on money laundering charges last year.

Several ANC officials, civil servants as well as ordinary ANC members showed their support for Block.

Block resigned from all of his positions – as ANC provincial chairperson, ANC MPL in the Northern Cape legislature as well as MEC for economic development – two days after the guilty verdict.

Former ANC MP Yolande Botha – who was the head of the social development department when the crimes took place – died during the trial following a battle with skin cancer.

Scholtz’s company, Trifecta, were accused of granting unsecured loans to Botha, which were never captured in the company’s books. 

Read more on:    trifecta group  |  john block  |  crime

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