Publication: Independent Online Issued: Date: 2004-07-26 Reporter: Sapa

Yengeni's Appeal Postponed Indefinitely



Independent Online

Date 2004-07-26



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An appeal by former African National Congress chief whip Tony Yengeni against what he considers to be a "harsh and severe" four-year jail sentence for fraud was postponed indefinitely on Monday.

The matter was adjourned by Pretoria High Court judge Ronnie Bosielo for the prosecuting authority to determine a date for its enrolment, said State advocate Riegal du Toit.

The postponement took place in the judge's chambers.

Yengeni was sentenced in March 2003 to four years in jail after pleading guilty to defrauding parliament by failing to disclose a near 50 percent discount he received on a luxury 4X4 Mercedes-Benz.

He was acquitted of related corruption charges under a plea agreement with the state.

The car deal was arranged by Yengeni's co-accused, Michael Woerfel - at the time head of the Pretoria representative office of Daimler-Benz Aerospace AG, a bidder in the government's arms acquisition process.

Yengeni was then chairperson of parliament's joint standing committee on defence, which oversaw the arms deal. All charges against Woerfel were withdrawn.

Yengeni is out on R10 000 bail. The Specialised Commercial Crimes Court, which convicted him, ruled that he could be considered for correctional supervision after serving one sixth (eight months) of his sentence.

Yengeni resigned as an MP two weeks before he was sentenced.

In his notice of appeal, the former politician contends the penalty raised a sense of shock and was bad in law.

Magistrate Bill Moyses, he said, failed to take into account that he was a first offender, was unemployed, and that he had committed a "less serious" type of fraud which did not involve any material deprivation.

The magistrate had over-emphasised the seriousness of the offence and the interests of society, and had "sacrificed the appellant (Yengeni) at the altar of deterrence".

Yengeni also contends that at the time he received the discount, there was ambiguity and uncertainty as to whether this was a "benefit" that had to be disclosed under the parliamentary code of conduct adopted "only" two years before.

"Members of parliament still had to grapple with the interpretation of the code's provisions," Yengeni's court documents state.

Also, parliament had not deemed it fit to make the failure to disclose such a benefit a criminal offence.

Moyses had misdirected himself in a number of respects and the resulting sentence was "disturbingly inappropriate", Yengeni contends.

He asks for the sentence to be wholly suspended or replaced with a fine.

With acknowledgements to Sapa and Independent Online.