Durban - The State on Wednesday withdrew all charges in the criminal case against Durban businesswoman Shauwn Mpisane, almost a year after charging her with 53 counts of fraud and forgery.
The twist emerged in the Durban Commercial Crime Court where the case resumed briefly, with the State scheduled to provide documentary evidence supporting its allegations that Mpisane had cheated and fraudulently obtained Construction Industry Development Board certificates.
The certificates were needed by Mpisane in bidding for government construction tenders which she later won.
Prosecutor Wendy O’Brien said the state was withdrawing the charges against Mpisane and court adjourned.
Outside court, Mpisane’s attorney, Shaukat Karim, said the State had promised to provide them with reasons for the withdrawal by the close of business on Wednesday.
He said they were expecting all Mpisane’s restrained assets to be returned.
Before Mpisane’s fleeting appearance, Natasha Ramkisson-Kara, provincial spokeswoman for the National Prosecuting Authority, said the charges against Mpisane would be provisionally withdrawn.
This proviso did not emerge in court, however. O’Brien spoke of withdrawal.
Mpisane seemed stunned at the development. She has remained composed and non-committal throughout her many court appearances despite intense media interest in her legal battles, both with the State and the SA Revenue Service (Sars), where she is contesting charges of tax evasion.
She declined to comment. But, pressed for a response on whether she would sue for damages, her husband, S’bu, told the Daily News it had not been about money or publicity.
“My wife and our family have been tried and convicted in the media for the past year despite our plea to let the matter run its course before the courts. We have been guided by our faith and belief that the facts would eventually emerge.
“And despite all that has been done against my wife’s reputation and attempts to tarnish our image, we don’t need to stoop to the same level to prove a point by counter-suing,” he said.
“We simply wanted justice and recognition of Shauwn as a businesswoman in her own right, not through political connections and devious means. My wife has worked very hard to get to the top and her success is due to this and not earned through corrupt means as some would like to believe.”
The twist raises the possibility of R70 million in restrained assets being returned to the Mpisanes, along with a refund of the R100 000 bail granted after her arrest last year in wake of the fraud charges.
The case against the Durban tycoon, known for her flamboyant fashion style and stiletto heels at her court appearances, has stirred fascination as details of the couple’s lifestyle emerged publicly.
This attention sharpened last year amid an early morning raid on February 6 by the Asset Forfeiture Unit on the couple’s La Lucia mansion to seize a fleet of luxury cars pending the outcome of the case against her and her company, Zikhulise Cleaning & Transport.
A string of properties belonging to the couple were placed under curatorship as part of the seizure. Most of the cars were later returned in exchange for cash.
In spite of Wednesday’s dramatic events, however, Mpisane’s battles are not yet over as she waits to hear the outcome of her tax fraud case with Sars, which has been ongoing for three years.
In this matter, she stands accused of 119 counts of tax fraud to the tune of R4.7m.