PORT ELIZABETH - The fraud and money laundering trial involving former Eastern Province Rugby boss, Cheeky Watson, and his three co-accused hit a snag after the matter was postponed in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court on Monday.
Watson, Nadia Gerwel, a former assistant director in Nelson Mandela Bay metro’s finance department, Zeranza director Andrea Wessels, and Mandisi Mkasa, a former director of Laphum’ilanga Transport Services, face charges of fraud and money laundering following a lengthy probe into alleged fraudulent activities involving around R12 million.
The money was meant for the coastal city's integrated public transport system (IPTS). Watson and his co-accused handed themselves over to police in March last year. At the time, Watson said the charges against him were "malicious".
They appeared in court on Monday with an army of lawyers lining the courtroom. The trial was expected to get underway but legal counsel for the accused brought two applications. Watson’s legal team asked for his case to be separated on the basis that he only faced two counts in comparison to the 40 or more counts faced by his co-accused.
However, Magistrate Lionel Lindoor dismissed the application saying that it would not be in the interests of justice to grant a separation of trial for Watson. Meanwhile, lawyers representing Mkasa, Wessels and the company Zeranza, asked for a postponement claiming that there was outstanding documentation in the case docket provided to them.
Lindoor granted them a postponement to October 2 in order for them to finalise outstanding documentation and prepare for trial. It is alleged that Wessels conspired with Gerwel to defraud the metro in a manner designed to give them unlawful access to IPTS funds.
The State alleges Gerwel and Wessels used an events management company as a vehicle to launder the money. But when that company was no longer viable, they allegedly turned to Access Management, a company operating at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium, and then to EP Rugby.
According to court papers, close to R3 million was allegedly laundered into the bank accounts of Access, EP Rugby and Zeranza – by means of Watson, Gerwel and Wessels acting in concert with one another.
In 2007 National Treasury approved a budget of R208 million for the improvement of the IPTS system. The multi-million rand IPTS is regarded as the city’s biggest corruption scandal. The trial is now expected to be heard in December.
African News Agency (ANA)