Yengeni Says Charge Sheet is Faulty
Pretoria : Former ANC Chief Whip Tony Yengeni and businessman Michael Woerfel yesterday sought a postponement of their corruption trial to bring a special high court application.
They intend asking the Pretoria High Court to uphold their objections to the state's charge sheet - which they claim did not specify an offence.
Defence lawyers asked the Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Pretoria to delay the trial pending a review application, saying a grave injustice would be done otherwise.
Hilton Epstein, for Yengeni, said there was a reasonable prospect of the high court disagreeing with magistrate Bill Moyses's finding that the charge sheet was adequate. The interpretation of the law would have an impact on the type of evidence to be led and witnesses to be called at the trial, he argued.
Moyses is to rule on the postponement application today.
Earlier, he dismissed defence objections to the charge sheet, saying he was satisfied the state had provided sufficient detail.
Yengeni is charged with corruption for allegedly buying a Mercedes-Benz 4x4 at a 47% discount in return for using his influence to "market" the products of DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG.
He faces an alternative charge of fraud for failing to disclose the benefit to parliament. He was at the time the chairman of parliament's joint standing committee on defence.
Woerfel, then managing director of the DaimlerChrysler's predecessor - the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company - 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. Last week they asked the court to quash all the charges, except for the one count of fraud against Woerfel, saying the state has no case.
Defence lawyers contended one could not be found guilty of corruption unless the state proved the person accepting a bribe did so with the intention of returning a specific favour.
It was not an offence to give somebody a benefit merely because of the office he held, they argued.
Yesterday Moyses said there was a difference between past and future corruption. To prove future corruption, the state needn't specify what act would have been committed or omitted in return for accepting a bribe. It need only prove there was intent.
On arguments that Yengeni was not criminally liable for failing to disclose the deal to parliament, Moyses pointed out Yengeni was the chairman of a body charged with giving the Defence Department guidance on the arms acquisition process - in which Woerfel also had a stake.
The potential prejudice was not remote, as argued by Epstein, since there was a real risk of violating the public's trust in parliament and in the ANC, the magistrate said.
Yengeni was also not protected by parliamentary privilege, as this applied only to the execution of duties and not to receiving a benefit in one's personal capacity.
Defence lawyers said they believed Moyses had misinterpreted the law on corruption.
"We will not be given a fair trial if it is dealt with in the basis of the law as it is now stated to be," Epstein argued.
The state objected to a postponement, saying special arrangements had been made to get a trial date. The matter has been set down for July 19 to 26.
All witnesses have been subpoenaed, and one has arrived from Turkey with the intention of returning on Tuesday, said Jan Henning, SC.
"If the matter is now postponed, the inevitable result will be that we will not be able to proceed on the days set aside. We will not finalise the case in this period, and in all probability we will not even be able to commence," he said.
He said the matter should not be heard in a piecemeal fashion, saying there was nothing preventing the defence from raising their concerns at the end of the trial and then taking the matter on appeal or review later.
"I fail to see the grave injustice the accused would suffer if they have to plead to the charges at this stage," Henning said. "This matter should now proceed."
With acknowledgements to Sapa and Cape Times.