Kimberley - ANC Northern Cape chairman John Block was found guilty of exerting political influence in order to secure multimillion-rand government leases with the Trifecta group of companies in the Northern Cape High Court on Wednesday.
He was also found guilty of accepting gratifications in the form of shares in Trifecta, renovations to his guest house in Upington to the value of nearly R350 000, R338 521 for his legal costs and cash payments of R228 000, R500 000 and R298 151 for facilitating the leases.
This is in contrast to the former Northern Cape MEC for Social Development, Alvin Botes, who was acquitted of all charges.
Judge Mmathebe Phatsoane also found the CEO of the Trifecta group of companies, Christo Scholtz, guilty on charges of corruption and money laundering.
The Trifecta group of companies was found guilty on charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering.
Phatsoane increased the bail of Scholtz and Block from R50 000 to R100 000 after handing down judgment.
She stated that while Block had a right not to testify, the silence of an accused was “not without consequences”.
She indicated that he had an obligation to explain to the court if the payments that he received from the company were in the form of a loan.
“He should have declared the nature of the services rendered to Trifecta where salary payments were made to him.”
Phatsoane added that the payment made for the renovations to Block’s guest house were made in order to “pressurise, influence and instruct” his personal assistant and Eubrahim Crouch to seal deals with Trifecta for the leasing of office space for the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and the Department of Land Reform and Agriculture.
Crouch was a director at the Department of Roads and Public Works and was in charge of property management.
She believed that Crouch had acted as an intermediary and not an instigator in the commissioning of a corrupt act.
Phatsoane pointed out that Crouch had raised concerns with Block that proper procurement procedures were not being followed.
She added that Crouch had merely signed as a witness when he was summoned to the guest house belonging to the wife of the late Sarel Breda, who was a director of Trifecta in 2005, to conclude a rental contract for the Department of Land Reform and Agriculture.
Phatsoane indicated that Block had explained that he had sourced funds to cover his legal costs, as he was unemployed and had to “fend for himself”.
“While everyone has a right to earn a living, it does not mean that he should resort to corrupt activities.”
Phatsoane stated that Block must have been aware that renovations to his guest house, payments and shares awarded to him and his company, Chisane Investments (Pty) Ltd, between 2005 and 2008 were the proceeds of unlawful activities.
“Block benefited from payments made to him that were not recorded in Trifecta’s books, including his legal fees and R500 000 that was paid to him by Data Force Trading (Pty) Ltd.”
Phatsoane added that forensic auditor Trevor White was unable to trace a record of the renovations to Block’s guest house in Trifecta's financial records.
She exonerated Botes for failing to declare his business interests in Itile Supply Services (Pty) Ltd when he submitted a bid for office accommodation for the Department of Social Development at the Van Riebeeck Street building in Springbok in the Northern Cape.
Trifecta had submitted a bid for the same building and was consequently awarded the tender.
Phatsoane stated that there was not sufficient evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that any arrangements existed between Breda and Botes to conclude that there was collusive bidding involved.
She stated that Breda was responsible for the 39 salary payments made to Botes, exceeding R700 000, as well as the 10 percent shares in trusts established by Trifecta.
She concluded that the R1 million in renovations to the home of the fourth accused, the former HOD for Social Development, Yolanda Botha, in Jawno Street constituted a gratification, along with a so-called R15 000 donation in lieu of the ANC’s 98th anniversary celebrations.
Botha died in December 2014 after being diagnosed with skin cancer.
Phatsoane stated that while Botha and Scholtz had supposedly entered into a loan agreement, where Botha undertook to pay off the costs of the renovations, as on March 2011 she still had a sizeable outstanding balance on the loan.
State advocate Peter Serunye did not object to the extension of the bail as the accused had attended all court proceedings.
He advised the accused to hand in their passports and request permission before travelling abroad or outside the Province.
The matter was postponed to January 25 for sentencing.