Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2002-07-16 Reporter: Bonile Ngqiyaza Editor:

Yengeni and Woerfel Seek Delay

 

Publication  Business Day
Date 2002-07-16
Reporter Bonile Ngqiyaza
Web Link www.bday.co.za

 

A Pretoria court has dismissed objections by former African National Congress (ANC) chief whip Tony Yengeni and top aerospace firm executive Michael W÷erfel to fraud and graft allegations facing them.

The charges relate to government's R43bn arms deal.

The case arose after a big discount was given to Yengeni on a Mercedes-Benz 4x4 by Woerfel's group a bidder for one of the contracts in the arms deal.

Yesterday's ruling is a setback for Yengeni and the SA MD of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, and they have sought a postponement of their corruption trial to bring a special high court application.

Specialised Commercial Crimes Court Magistrate Bill Moyses is to rule on the postponement application this morning.

Yengeni and Woerfel had objected to the charge sheet produced by the state claiming that nowhere did it show that an offence had been committed.

They argued also that the state had not given further particulars to enable them to frame a defence to the charges.

But yesterday, Moyses ruled that the charge sheet did "indeed, disclose offences". He also said that the court was "satisfied that the state has furnished sufficient particulars, in such detail, to both accused to enable them to know the case they have to meet."

The state, he said, "need not allege the precise nature of the act". The court also dealt with a point raised by Yengeni's lawyer, Advocate Hilton Epstein, that the code of conduct, which compels political representatives to disclose their financial interests, had never been adopted.

Moyses found that the code "was, indeed, adopted by Parliament" and that Yengeni was bound by it.

He said all Yengeni had to do when he received the alleged benefit, "was to disclose it".

Moyses ruled that although Yengeni was not charged with contravening the code, his nondisclosure of the benefit was "certainly circumstantial evidence that goes into the scale". But the court can only consider this at the end of the trial, he said.

Moyses said it was "essential that (SA's) elected leaders maintain the highest standards of propriety to ensure that the integrity and that of the political institutions which they serve, are beyond question".

He dealt also with another contention from Yengeni's legal team concerning parliamentary privilege which they said should protect him from any criminal charges.

Moyses found that the privilege, "only equips him to perform the duties without let or hindrance and is, therefore, not a privilege in a personal sense.

"(Yengeni) received the alleged benefit in his personal capacity which has nothing to do with his office as chairman of the Joint Standing Commission on defence," said Moyses.

With acknowledgements to Bonile Ngqiyaza and Business Day.