Travel Boss 'Warned Zuma of Hornet's Nest' If Probe Went On
Travel agency bosses charged with defrauding parliament of nearly R16 million had warned Deputy President Jacob Zuma of a "hornet's nest" that would embarrass the ANC if its leadership allowed the probe into the travel scam to continue.
They sought an urgent meeting with "the political heads" of the ruling party.
This emerged in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court yesterday where the state launched an application to have bail for Business and Executive Travel's Soraya Beukes withdrawn.
Beukes's bail of R100 000 was temporarily suspended by Magistrate Hennie le Roux, who will rule today on whether to withdraw it completely.
She was remanded in custody until today when the court will decide if she should stay in jail.
The reasons for the state's application included that she had tried to interfere with the investigation by seeking political intervention from the highest levels of government and that she was a "flight risk".
A potential case against parliamentarians would also be weakened if she absconded, the court heard.
The Scorpions, through senior investigator Kobus Roelofse, also alleged that she and other travel agency bosses who were implicated, had been the source of several front page stories in the Sunday Times which made untrue allegations that senior government ministers, including Education Minister Naledi Pandor and Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, were being probed.
This had also allegedly been an attempt to get the investigation quashed by heavyweight politicians.
The travel scam allegedly included MPs using their travel vouchers for unauthorised expenditure, including hiring luxury cars and staying in hotels.
The travel agencies allegedly claimed for this unauthorised travel by creating fake air tickets and other documents and that they further inflated the amounts claimed.
Beukes is the former long-term partner of Western Cape Finance MEC Lynne Brown.
In a letter to Zuma - dated June 25 last year - Beukes says: "We (the black travel agencies implicated) are all in possession of documents where services were delivered to particularly the ruling party members. All our attempts to avoid incriminating and embarrassing those members, has been met with distain (sic).
"The alleged discrepancies are easily resolved, but not without embarrassment to the ruling party as most of their members are implicated.
"Due to these reasons we have avoided taking legal action. As this matter is very sensitive and the integrity of parliament will be seriously damaged in the interim, we are seeking an audience with political heads on this matter as a matter of utmost urgency!!!
"None of our businesses will survive pass (sic) Friday and the liquidators will have a field day uncovering a Hornet's Nest."
Six other travel agency bosses and staff arrested at the same time as Beukes in connection with the travel scam, remain out on bail of between R20 000 and R100 000.
The court heard yesterday that the Scorpions had interviewed 19 MPs. Some have claimed ignorance, while some blame Beukes for luring them into the scam.
The state also alleged that Beukes had lied to the court about not having an income for the past 12 months.
Prosecutor Ben Avenandt handed in photocopies of cheques written out to Beukes by her daughter's business, Business and Executive Destinations. These included several cheques of R30 000 with the word "salary" as a description. Beukes's home loans and car had been paid out of another account, said Avenandt.
Last month Beukes applied to the court for permission to travel to Mozambique, allegedly because she was invited to the Catembe Gallery Hotel to do a feasibility and viability study for potential South African investors.
But yesterday it emerged in an affidavit from Koenraad Collier, the president of the hotel, that he had withdrawn an invitation extended to Beukes within an hour of e-mailing her on September 6. Collier had apparently done an internet check on the business activities of Business and Executive Travel and had discovered their alleged involvement in the travel scam.
Collier also said in his affidavit that Beukes had never been invited to do any work for him or for potential investors and that she had been recommended to him by a journalist as a potential investor.
Avenandt said Beukes had lied to the court when she applied on September 15 for permission to go to Mozambique.
Beukes later withdraw her application when it was pointed out that the Scorpions had to approve her travel plans to Mozambique. When she wrote to seek their approval, the Scorpions refused.
The court also heard that the Scorpions were following up several leads which could see Beukes being charged with defrauding parastatal arms manufacturer Denel of R3 million. The alleged fraud involved credit cards given to Business and Executive Travel by Denel.
Meanwhile, Southern Sun Hotels has brought an application in the Cape High Court to have another implicated travel agency liquidated.
The application to liquidate Star Travel Bureau, owned by another travel scam accused Graham Geduldt, is being supported by the secretary of parliament and South African Airways.
With acknowledgements to Ashley Smith and the Cape Times.