‘Friends gave friends money’

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iol news pic Trifecta Kimberley SAPA Cellphone image of Northern Cape ANC leader John Block (R) on trial for fraud and corruption in the Northern Cape High Court.

Kimberley - The prosecution has described how friends in the Trifecta network kept on giving other friends money in return for favours, in the R100 million fraud, corruption and money laundering trial.

The accused; Trifecta Holdings (Pty) Ltd chief executive officer Christo Scholtz, ANC provincial chairman John Block, ANC deputy provincial secretary Alvin Botes and the former head of the Department of Social Development Yolanda Botha, have applied for their discharge and acquittal.

The case was on Wednesday postponed the Northern Cape High Court until April 24, because arguments could not be concluded in the two days that were initially set down this week.

State advocate, Peter Serunye, explained to the court on Wednesday how the accused shared a symbiotic relationship, where the prosecution was not only targeting Block.

“We were presented with thousands of documents that can attest that the accused stand to be convicted. No one is being singled out. We treat all accused equally.”

Serunye gave details of how over R1 million was paid to Block through the Trifecta group of companies, in the form of consultancy and legal fees, renovations to his guest house in Upington and shares in the company.

“There is no evidence that Block ever repaid a cent of his debts.”

He pointed out that a R500 000 gratification that was given to Block’s company, Chisane Investments, by the late Trifecta director Sarel Breda, could not be considered to be a gift.

“It is improbable that even if he was a friend, that this large amount of R500 000 was handed over as a gift. Block was given R338 521.25 by a friend (Breda) helping a friend to settle his legal fees. Why was this money not paid by Block to his attorneys directly?

“He also received R228 000 in consultancy fees where the nature of the services provided was not clarified.”

Serunye added that these “gifts” created an expectation amongst the circle of friends to return the favours by awarding government leases to Trifecta.

“The renovations to Block’s guest house in Upington were hidden amongst the costs of the renovations to the old Oranje Hotel in Upington and were never recorded in Trifecta’s books,” Serunye argued.

He added that Block and his company received various gratifications from Breda that were described as salaries and shares.

“Similarly shares as well as salary payments made to Botes and the Polyiana Trust, of which he and his family are beneficiaries, by Trifecta were made without any services rendered. This amounts to a gratification even if he was not employed by government at the time.”

He added that the phonecall that was made by Block to Crouch in 2005, shortly before Breda came to his office, was a conspiracy to commit corruption.

“Block benefited by way of a gratification that was deposited at a later stage after he had already influenced Crouch to act in a certain way to award leases to the Trifecta group of companies.”

He added that while Block was not a government employee at the time, he was aware that Crouch was the person who could secure office accommodation.

“Crouch was told, as the head of the unit, in no uncertain terms to see how he would help Breda. Crouch regarded Block as an ANC leader and a person of influence.”

Serunye also indicated that the extent of Block’s immense influence was shown at the time Crouch was approached by Breda so that “things could happen”.

“At that stage Trifecta did not even own one building. Through the intervention of Block and Crouch, the company was able to purchase the Kimberlite Hotel and the Northern Cape Training Centre which were later leased to government departments.”

Serunye pointed out that even if Botha had received a delayed gratification, in the form of a loan, shares or renovations, it had originated from the proceeds of illegal activities.

“Depositing money emanating from a crime into a trust account, amounts to corruption.”

He stated that although Botha had repaid about R400 000 out of a total of about R1.2 million of the cost of renovations to her house that were funded by Trifecta, this amounted to less than half of what she owed.

“The renovations started in 2009 and to date she still owes about R600 000. Trifecta is not enforcing its rights to reclaim the money. Botha has the luxury of paying, if and when, she sees fit to do so. There are no conditions of payment or interest.”

Serunye added that the R15 000 payment that was made to Botha, could not have been a donation to the ANC because it was never recorded as such in Trifecta’s financial statements.

“The money was transferred to her as a cash payment through a third party. She is still a public officer in parliament, who received renovations to her home to the value of R1.2 million from an entity with whom she conducted business with while she was an HOD.”

He indicated that Botha was offered shares in the company as a means of repaying her for procuring leases with the Department of Social Development.

Serunye said that following Breda’s death, the agreement that he had entered into with Botha in 2005, to offer a 10 percent shareholding in a Trifecta trust, to a nominee of her choice, was put into effect by Scholtz.

He said that this deal was orchestrated to enable Trifecta to make a good profit and acquire assets, while relatives of Botha would benefit in the process.

“Why were shares offered to this public figure who was also the HOD of the department that had entered into these leases with the same company in which she holds a vested interest, about a year later? Even if the shares were given to a family relative, the accused still benefited.”

He added that the leases were extended from five to 10 years with the intention of benefiting the company in which family members held shares.

Legal representative for Botha, advocate Anwar Albertus SC, argued that if the corruption charge failed, the rest of the building blocks would automatically fall away.

“The charges piggyback upon each other and cannot be concluded. If there is no corruption, there is no money laundering, fraud and no unlawful activity.”

Albertus stated that Botha would not have spent R123 000 on materials, out of her own pocket on renovations, if it was intended to be considered to be a gratification.

“This is not a small sum of money and if it was the inducement she would have asked Scholtz to pay in total for these renovations.

“The shares received as well as the renovations that came from the coffers of Trifecta, are lawful. How could it be from the proceeds of illegal activities,” Albertus asked.

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