Full Circle for Yengeni and Woerfel
The case against African National Congress (ANC) MP Tony Yengeni and his fellow accused, top aerospace firm executive Michael Woerfel, returns to where it started: the Specialised Commercial Crime Court.
The two suffered another setback yesterday when the Pretoria High Court dismissed their application for a review of a finding against them in the lower court.
Yengeni and Woerfel wanted a review of regional court magistrate William Moyses' finding that the state had made out a case for the accused to answer.
The two men face allegations of fraud and corruption relating to government's arms deal.
They had objected to the charge sheet produced by the state in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court, claiming it did not show an offence had been committed. They also argued the state had not given further particulars to enable them to frame a defence to the charges.
Their legal teams argued it was difficult to prepare a defence the way the charge sheet was formulated and unless sufficient details were supplied. The case arose from the big discount given to Yengeni on a Mercedes-Benz 4x4 from Woerfel's group.
After dismissal of the objections in the lower court, Moyses also turned down an application to postpone the start of the trial so they could approach the high court to review the proceedings in the lower court.
However, he agreed that the matter could stand down until they had had a chance to approach the high court on an urgent basis.
Yesterday's outcome means the two have to return to the regional court for deliberation on their trial today, and it is understood that the state will push for the case to commence.
While lawyers expressed reluctance to comment yesterday on what would be their next step, several options are still open to them.
These include allowing the trial to take its course, and then taking up the matter afterwards on appeal.
But an approach to the Constitutional Court can also not be ruled out in Yengeni's case. One of the arguments his lawyers have introduced in court is that of parliamentary privilege which they say gives him protection from criminal and civil proceedings for his utterances and submissions made to the National Assembly and its committees.
Gauteng Judge President Bernard Ngoepe said in his ruling yesterday: "This court cannot be called upon from time to time to investigate piecemeal correctness of decisions or views."
Ngoepe refused to inquire into the correctness of the magistrate's interpretation of the law in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court.
He said: "The magistrate must conduct the entire trial in accordance with his own understanding and interpretation of the Corruption Act or any act of Parliament, which may be relevant."
Ngoepe said the high court would only intervene "if there would be a grave injustice were the trial is to be allowed to take its course".
"The court is not satisfied that were it not to intervene at this stage and allow the trial to proceed, grave injustice would (ensue)," he said.
The applicants, Ngoepe said, could always avail themselves of the appropriate remedies in the event that they were convicted. "This is not one of those exceptional cases where intervention is called for," he said.
With acknowledgements to Bonile Ngqiyaza and Business Day.