Publication: Issued: Date: 2002-07-09 Reporter: Editor:

Yengeni Asks Court to Quash Charges


Date 2002-07-09
Reporter Sapa 
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Former African National Congress chief whip Tony Yengeni on Tuesday asked the Special Commercial Crimes Court in Pretoria to quash fraud and corruption charges against him, saying the state had no case.

His co-accused, businessman Michael Woerfel, applied for a corruption charge against him to be thrown out on the same basis.

They claimed the state could not show that Yengeni had used his influence in any way in the arms acquisition process in return for a 47 percent discount Woerfel organised for him on a Mercedes Benz 4x4.

Corruption could only be proved if Yengeni had used his influence as former chairman of Parliament's joint standing committee of defence to organise a favour in return for the special deal, their legal teams argued.

Michael Hellens, SC, for Woerfel, told the court the state was unable even to allege any wrongdoing, never mind prove it.

In itself, it was not a crime to give somebody a benefit because of the office he holds, or for that person to accept.

"The state implodes its own case," Hellens argued. "They don't know what their case is."

He said it was an accused person's constitutional right to know exactly what he was accused of.

"The State must allege a crime in detail, and they can't."

For Yengeni, Hilton Epstein, SC, argued the charge sheet did not contain sufficient particulars to sustain a corruption charge or a conviction.

"The state wants to prove something by inference but they don't even know what they want to prove."

He contended the state had conceded Yengeni would not have been able to influence the arms acquisition process, and also could not prove that he had tried.

Yengeni faces a charge of corruption for allegedly buying the car at a discount in return for using his influence to "market" the products of Daimler-Chrysler Aerospace AG.

He faces an alternative charge of fraud for failing to disclose the benefit to Parliament.

Woerfel is charged with corruption for organising the car deal.

Both face a charge of fraud in relation to alleged false representations made in the agreement of sale.

All the charges were on Tuesday objected to in court, except for the one count of fraud against Woerfel.

The charges relate to an alleged 47 percent discount given to Yengeni when he bought the luxury car apparently organised by Woerfel - then managing director of European Aeronautic Defence Systems (EADS).

The State alleged that Woerfel sold the car to Yengeni for R182 563, just half the retail price of R349 950. Yengeni sold the Mercedes for R220 000 in November last year.

The state further alleges Yengeni received the vehicle with the intention to "use his power or exercise his influence to influence the arms acquisitions process" in favour of EADS' predecessor Daimler-Benz Aerospace AG or DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG.

EADS - a joint venture between DaimlerChrysler Aerospace and two European companies - has a 33 percent stake in Reutech Radar Systems, a Stellenbosch-based company that secured a R220-million contract to provide radar technology for four corvettes that form part of the country's multi-billion rand arms acquisition programme.

In the morning, Epstein argued that a parliamentary code of conduct Yengeni stands accused of violating appears never to have been formally adopted.

He said he could find no documentary evidence that the code, which governed members' financial interests, was adopted after it had been discussed in the National Assembly and the former Senate in August 1996.

In any event, failure to comply with the code did not constitute a crime. On the charge of fraud, Epstein said Yengeni could not be found guilty of misrepresentation as the transaction of sale document was not compiled by him, but by Woerfel's company.

Should the court uphold the objections to the charge sheet, it could be referred back to the state for redrafting, or the court could throw out the charges.

The state was to present its arguments after lunch.

With acknowledgements to Sapa and