Travelgate probe 'designed to destroy politicians'

The Travelgate investigation had been designed to destroy the reputations of certain politicians, one of the four travel agents facing charges has claimed.

Estelle Aggujaro made the allegation in an affidavit submitted to the Cape High Court on Tuesday as part of her bid for a formal investigation into the reasons for the repeated postponements of the case.

She said the Scorpions had targeted “political opponents” in the case, and that their investigation had been intended to destroy “the reputation and political role playing ability” of certain MPs.

Aggujaro said the unit had “groupings” of investigators who had been involved in the apartheid-era security police and with vigilante group Pagad.

“This is important in the Travelgate investigation as the case involved the investigation of politicians,” she said.

“Most of the MPs listed [by the Scorpions] were from the ruling party [African National Congress], and those investigated from the DA [Democratic Alliance] were MPs who were intending to cross the floor.”

A total of 29 MPs, most of them from the ANC, have already been sentenced in terms of plea agreements with the Scorpions. Only one, chief whip Mnyamezeli Booi, is still contesting the fraud charges.

Aggujaro also claimed her travel agency had offered services to ministers in former president Thabo Mbeki’s Cabinet, and though she faced prosecution, those VIPs were not even charged.

Among the documents she attached to her affidavit was a letter sent by her husband Giuseppe to President Kgalema Motlanthe in January this year, calling for a judicial inquiry into Travelgate.

She also attached a reply from the presidency, saying it was “presently considering” the letter.

Aggujaro was arrested in July 2004, when she was sole director of the now-defunct ITC Travel.

She said that since then she had been unemployable in the travel industry.

“My health has suffered as a result of the trauma and stress related to this case, as I suffer from depression as [a] result of ... being unable to prove my innocence,” she said.

“Clearly this matter cannot proceed like this with constant postponements.”

An appropriate order for the court to make would be to strike the case from the roll, she said.

Her application was made in terms of Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Act, which allows a court to investigate any delay “which appears to the court to be unreasonable” and which could prejudice the prosecution or the accused.

Prosecutor Jannie van Vuuren told Judge Hennie Erasmus that the state needed time to file affidavits in reply to Aggujaro’s papers.

Erasmus postponed the matter to May 22 for argument on the application.

Van Vuuren also told the court that he understood a chartered accountant had at last been appointed by the Legal Aid Board to draw up an independent forensic report for the four agents.

This had been the main cause of delay in the case so far.

He said the state wanted the trial finalised as soon as possible, and that Aggujaro’s application would mean further delay.

The other three travel agents are Soraya Beukes, Mpho Lebelo and Graham Geduldt.

All are out on bail.—Sapa

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