Kimberley - The State is footing the bill for the legal fees of at least one of the accused in the Trifecta trial, where the expenses for the bail hearing of one of the accused alone came to more than R97 000.
The accused, CEO of Trifecta Holdings, Christo Scholtz, ANC provincial chairman John Block and former MEC for Social Development, Alvin Botes, are expected to appear in the Northern Cape High Court on October 13 for judgement on the multi-million rand fraud, corruption and money laundering case.
The accused allegedly received kickbacks in the form of shares, cash and renovations to their properties in exchange for facilitating government leases at inflated prices.
The fourth accused, the former HOD for Social Development, Yolanda Botha, died in December 2014 after being diagnosed with skin cancer that later spread to her brain.
Before her death, Botha, who was a member of Parliament at the time, was requested to confirm that services had been rendered.
This was to enable the Northern Cape Department of Social Development to execute payment to the consulting attorneys who were responsible for her bail application.
The department had, by July 2014, approved an account totalling R121 819.26.
The legal advisor in the Premier’s Office had noted some concerns with the billing, including the fact that the department was paying more for consultations and perusal of documents and that there was missing information on the invoices including dates, record keeping and costing.
An amount of R86 906.25 was queried as to what exactly the consultation entailed, while it was highlighted that 17 hours of consultation for a bail application was “excessive”.
Spokesman for the Office of the Premier, Monwabisi Nkompela, on Wednesday stated that the Department of Social Development had confirmed that legal fees were paid in the matter between the State and the late Yolanda Botha in the Trifecta case.
“The department is in the process of reconciling fees paid in this regard. It would be pre-mature to state whether any money would be claimed from the estate as the matter has not been finalised.”
Nkompela refrained from commenting on who was funding the legal fees of the other accused or what the bill was so far.
He also did not indicate from which budget the legal costs were being covered.
“It would be pre-mature to comment on the legal fees of a case that is still sitting in front of a court of law. We wish to therefore not comment on the legal cost or any matter pertaining to the case until it is finalised. The Office of the Premier will respond in due course to matters relating to this case.
“Let us exercise patience on this matter and allow the due process to run its course.”
Chairman of the Northern Cape Civics Organisation, Ross Henderson, pointed out that this bill was just the “tip of the iceberg”.
“Millions have been spent so far. The trial lasted for a couple of months and the accused employed the services of senior counsel from Gauteng, who charge a conservative figure of R50 000 per court appearance, per day. This excludes travelling and accommodation costs and expenses on junior and instructing attorneys.”
Henderson advised the accused to make use of legal aid services if they were unable to afford expensive counsel. “Why should hard-earned taxpayers’ money be used to subsidise government officials accused of fraud and corruption involving public funds? It appears as if the accused have no faith in the competency and skills of local legal representation.
“If the accused want to make use of top legal brains from outside the Province, it should be at their own expense.”
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