Travelgate: 'Some less equal than others'

The Scorpions were conducting a selective prosecution in the parliamentary travel-voucher fraud case, the Cape High Court was told on Tuesday.

“In terms of the novel Animal Farm, some of us are less equal than others,” attorney Reuben Liddell, representing travel agent Soraya Beukes, told Cape Judge President John Hlophe.

He was speaking after Hlophe convicted and sentenced another two former African National Congress (ANC) MPs, Angie Molebatsi and Douglas Maimane, in terms of plea bargain agreements with the Scorpions.

The convictions follow the plea-bargain sentencing on Monday of 14 current and former ANC MPs involved in the so-called Travelgate affair.

Molebatsi and Maimane, who both pleaded guilty to theft, were sentenced to fines of R25 000 each or three years’ jail, with an additional five years suspended.

Appearing in the dock immediately after the finalising of their plea agreements were the remaining 12 accused in the case, including Beukes.

Liddell told Hlophe that he and his client had been trying unsuccessfully to get from National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete a copy of an August 2004 audit report by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

If they did not get the document, he would apply for her case to be struck from the roll, he said.

He said his instructions from Beukes were that she was not being given the equal treatment before the law set out in the Bill of Rights, and that a “selective prosecution” was taking place.

She believed that all the parties that took part in the criminal activities that had resulted in the matter being brought to court should be brought to book.

His instructions were that there were people mentioned in the audit report who had not been prosecuted.

“It appears that some people are more expendable than others,” Liddell said.

Scorpions prosecutor Jannie van Vuuren said it was difficult for him to respond to the claim of selective prosecution as he was not given “specific instances”.

Hlophe said while the decision on prosecution lay with the office of the director of public prosecutions, from the court’s point of view Beukes would get a fair trial.

Asking for the case to be postponed to November 14—which Hlophe agreed to—Van Vuuren said though the state was ready to go ahead with the trial, and he was under some pressure to do so, there was a “real potential” of further plea bargains being concluded.

He also said this week’s plea bargains had changed the situation, and the state would have to re-evaluate whether it wanted to press ahead with a single trial, or split the remaining accused.

Advocate Seth Nthai, who acts for all the ANC accused, told Hlophe that plea bargain discussions were under way with the remaining clients he represented, and that an agreement for Western Cape MP Danny Olifant was almost concluded.

The 12 in court on Tuesday were Beukes, Olifant, ANC MPs Jabu Sosibo, Elizabeth Ngaleka, Mnyamezeli Booi and Maxwell Moss, former DA MPs Antoinette Versfeld and Craig Morkel, and travel agents Mpho Lebelo, Graham Geduldt, Estelle Aggujaro and Nazley Lackay.—Sapa


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