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Intaka trial on hold again

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Defence feels clients compromised due to non-trial prejudices

Former ANC provincial chairperson, John Block, talks with his legal team. Picture: Danie van der Lith

THE INTAKA trial has been postponed for another year following objections from the defence that the accused are being prejudiced by the unending delays, due to the case having already dragged on for several years.

The multimillion-rand fraud, corruption and money laundering trial relates to water purifiers and oxygen machines that were purchased for health facilities in the Northern Cape from Intaka Holdings (Pty) Ltd, where the State alleges that inflated prices were charged and kickbacks were paid.

Dali Mjila, the legal representative for former ANC provincial chairperson John Block and the former CFO at the Department of Health, Daniel Gaborone, stated that one of the accused was at risk of losing his house as he was unable to find employment due to the charges hanging over his head.

“The accused have been placed in limbo due to non-trial-related prejudices. It is a reality and not a fantasy. The accused cannot find employment while the matter is pending and they have families to take care of. One of the accused is in the process of losing his house, as he is not able to pay the bond. This is quite dire as it has been a number of years,” said Mjila.

Block stepped down from all positions in government and politics in 2015 after he was convicted on charges of corruption and money laundering relating to government leases that were awarded to the Trifecta group of companies.

Gaborone is still employed by government.

Senior advocate Francois Van Zyl, the legal representative for Dr Gaston Savoi and his business colleague Fernando Praderi, who appeared in absentia, requested a “lengthy postponement”.

Van Zyl pointed out that there could be no progress on the matter until the application for the permanent stay of prosecution in KwaZulu-Natal had been finalised.

He said that they were still waiting for the State to inform them if they were still proceeding with the charges relating to the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, as they had yet to be issued with a certificate.

“It would be overly optimistic if the application for the stay of prosecution is placed on the court roll in the KwaZulu-Natal division before the second term next year. We have requested the national directorate of public prosecutions to place the matter on the court roll as quickly as possible.”

Van Zyl stated that it was inconvenient for the accused and defence to fly to Kimberley for the court appearances. “Therefore, we request for the postponement to be made for as long as possible. The co-accused are also suffering and there is nothing that we can do about it.”

Kwakanyi Kema, who is representing the former director of supply chain management at the Department of Health, Sanjay Mittah, pointed out that the case would be entering its eighth year on the court roll.

“We feel that we cannot go on like this. My client is suffering due to non-trial-related prejudice issues and is not in a position to find or apply for employment,” said Kema.

She requested the court’s assistance in finding a solution.

Senior state advocate Hannes Cloete acknowledged the non-trial-related prejudices that the accused faced.

“The situation has become untenable. I can’t close my eyes to the situation that the co-accused have found themselves in.

“I have on several occasions over the past few years made written submissions to the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions to do everything in their power to expedite the application for the stay of prosecution. Unfortunately my hands are tied.

“I have looked at some ways to limit the non-trial-related prejudice, however, no decisions can be taken until the respective representations have been made by the defence.”

Cloete pointed out that the State was in the same position as at the last court appearance in February.

“We invited the National Director of Public Prosecution, advocate Shaun Abrahams, to give input into the matter and to make submissions from Savoi’s attorney to meet as soon as possible.”

Magistrate Roland Birch postponed the matter until August 16 next year and held over the warrants of arrest for the accused who appeared in absentia.

“The court is aware of the prejudice suffered by the accused, where the accused stand to lose property and cannot find employment. The matter cannot go on indefinitely and the court must make a decision depending on the outcome of the representations.”