Jail beckons for Yengeni

Former African National Congress chief whip Tony Yengeni is to begin serving time in prison for fraud this week after his final bid to challenge his 2003 sentence failed on Monday.

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein dismissed his application for leave to appeal against the four-year prison sentence.

In a letter to the legal teams in the matter, the court registrar wrote: “The court ordered on August 21 2006 that the application be refused.”

No reasons were given for the ruling.

Yengeni’s attorney, Marius du Toit, told the South African Press Association: “It goes without saying that he’s immensely disappointed. We all are. That’s all I’m prepared to say.”

Du Toit said Yengeni had to report to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town within 72 hours of the ruling to start serving his sentence.

Du Toit said Yengeni will be eligible for early release after serving eight months of his sentence.

The ANC described the decision to refuse Yengeni’s appeal as sad and regrettable.

“Given the contribution that Tony Yengeni has made towards the achievement of a united and democratic South Africa, and appreciating the sacrifices he has made over the years of his involvement in the struggle, this outcome is deeply saddening and regrettable,” the party said in a statement.

“The ANC extends a message of solidarity and compassion to Tony Yengeni and to his family at this difficult moment, and trust that they will have the courage and support to confront the challenges that lie ahead.”

Democratic Alliance chief whip Douglas Gibson urged Yengeni to now “stop his kicking and screaming and respect the verdict handed down to him”.

“While the DA will take no pleasure from the downfall of Mr Yengeni, it is important for the public to realise that even significant figures in the ANC are not above the law,” Gibson said.

Yengeni filed papers in June this year to appeal against his sentence.

The application asked for leave to appeal directly to the SCA against his fraud sentence, and for condonation for the late filing of the application.

The Pretoria High Court turned down Yengeni’s earlier application for leave to appeal to the SCA on April 26.

His bail of R10 000 was increased to R30 000 and extended by two Pretoria High Court judges in May.

The extension was made pending the serving of a petition on the president of the SCA for leave to appeal against his sentence and any subsequent appeal if his petition was successful.

The Pretoria Regional Court sentenced Yengeni in March 2003 to four years’ imprisonment for defrauding Parliament over a discount he received on a 4x4 Mercedes-Benz from a bidder in the country’s multibillion-rand arms deal.

Yengeni was the chairperson of the parliamentary joint standing committee on defence at the time.

His appeal against the regional court’s sentence—to the Pretoria High Court—was dismissed in November last year.

The high court rejected his claim that he had been promised a lesser sentence under a plea bargain entered into with the state.

High court judges Eberhardt Bertelsmann and Ferdi Preller also found that Yengeni had abused his position of trust as an MP and should have been given a more severe sentence.

In an affidavit, filed with other papers at the SCA, Yengeni submitted that the regional court magistrate and the high court had, when pronouncing sentence, overemphasised the position of trust which he occupied as an MP.

He contended the regional court was also wrong in finding that he showed no remorse.—Sapa

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