Durban - Convicted fraudster Shauwn Mpisane and her entourage breathed a loud, collective sigh of relief when she was granted R100 000 bail on Friday.
The 36-year-old, accused of supplying false information to the Construction Industry Development Board for government tenders worth more than R140 million, smiled at her advocate, Jimmy Howse, and her husband, Sbu, a former Metro Police officer, standing behind her in the packed Durban Commercial Crime Court.
The flamboyant Durban businesswoman will go back to their R80m Addison Road mansion in La Lucia and is expected back in court on April 29.
Handing down his bail ruling, magistrate Gerrie Maree said Mpisane should not change her residential address, leave the country or have contact with more than 10 state witnesses.
On his decision to grant her bail, Maree said he had taken into consideration two overriding matters in that Mpisane was not a flight risk and she risked financial prejudice if she were to be locked up.
He also noted that more than 2 000 employees depended on Mpisane for their livelihood.
“I have looked at the fact that she will suffer severe financial loss if she is locked up until her trial,” he said.
It has been a busy week for the Mpisanes, who earlier this week had their home, 25 luxury vehicles and 35 work vehicles seized by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU).
The court order secured by the AFU also restrains their other properties and cash in bank accounts.
If she has taken any strain from this week’s events, Mpisane did a good job of covering it up as she remained poised and calm during the court proceedings on Friday.
Dressed in a pink dress and her usual towering heels with lime accessories, Mpisane, who has pleaded not guilty to 53 counts of fraud, forgery and uttering of a forged document, listened attentively as Howse tore into the state’s case.
Howse said the fraudulent document she allegedly submitted in favour of her company, Zikhulise Cleaning and Transport CC, was never used.
“No grading was ever done on the alleged fraudulent documentation,” he said.
He also dismissed testimony by investigating officer Colonel Kubenthren Naidoo as hearsay.
Naidoo told the court on Thursday that evidence before him suggested that one month before her May 2005 fraud conviction, Mpisane had submitted fraudulent documents, showing her propensity to commit further crimes. Mpisane received a wholly suspended sentence for the 2005 case after entering into a plea bargain.
Naidoo said most of the current charges related to incidents between 2005 and 2011.
Howse said there was no reliable evidence to indicate that his client – who has two pending court cases – had committed the crimes she was facing.
Howse said the two pending cases – one where she is facing 119 counts for allegedly defrauding Sars of R4.7m by inflating invoices and the other a suspected attempt to defeat the ends of justice – should not be used to refuse Mpisane bail.
“Sars have a heavy axe to grind against my client,” he said.
But prosecutor Joanna Bromley-Gans said that in a country characterised by fraud and corruption, Mpisane should be detained to help fight the scourge.
“If she is granted bail, it would undermine and jeopardise the criminal justice system,” she said.
Howse argued it would be absurd to have Mpisane languishing in jail while her client, the Department of Public Works, is happy with her work.
“The department has never lodged a complaint against my client and they continue to pay her,” he said, adding that Mpisane’s company was involved in a R658m housing contract.
After bail was granted family and friends sang and danced.