Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2003-01-16 Reporter: Sapa Editor:

Benz Brothers Back in Court


Publication  Mail and Guardian
Date 2003-01-16



Web Link


The fraud and corruption trial of former African National Congress chief whip Tony Yengeni and businessman Michael Woerfel is to resume in the Pretoria Commercial Crimes Court on Thursday.

The politician faces a charge of corruption for allegedly buying a luxury 4X4 Mercedes at a 47% discount in return for using his influence to "market" the products of Daimler-Benz Aerospace AG or Daimler-Benz Aerospace SA. He faces an alternative count of fraud for failing to disclose the benefit to Parliament.

Woerfel, then head of Daimler-Benz's Pretoria representative office, is charged with corruption for allegedly arranging the deal on a Mercedes Benz ML 320A.

Daimler-Benz was the manufacturer of the AT2000 - which was at the time being considered with two other aircraft in South Africa's search for an advanced light fighter aircraft in terms of the arms acquisition process. Both men face a charge of fraud for alleged false representations made in the agreement of sale drawn up for the car deal. The two have pleaded not guilty.

At the start of the trial in July last year, the court heard that Yengeni had asked Woerfel for the deal. Woerfel said in a statement to the court he was embarrassed by the request, but acceded as he did not want to damage his good relationship with the politician.

He denied the discount was given with the intent to influence Yengeni in any way.

Yengeni in a statement admitted receiving a discount but said he had no corrupt intent. He said he was unable to affect the outcome of the arms acquisition process and never suggested that he could. The trial has been staggered over three months due to the unavailability of the court for the full period.

It is to be conducted from Thursday for a week, then again from February 11 to 21, and finally March 19 to 25.

The trial was initially set down for July 9 to 26 last year, but was delayed by extensive legal wrangling over the charge sheet -- which the defence contended did not disclose an offence.

With acknowledgements to Sapa and the Mail and Guardian.