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04 Feb 2014 18:24
ANC heavyweight John Block. (M&G)
The Northern Cape government signed lease agreements with the Trifecta Group without advertising any tenders, a court heard in Kimberley on Tuesday.
Kimberley's high court Judge Mathebe Phatshoane was hearing evidence in the case against Northern Cape ANC heavyweights John Block, Alvin Botes, Yolanda Botha and Trifecta director Christo Scholtz.
They face charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering.
The state called it first witness – Trevor White, a PWC forensic auditor form KwaZulu-Natal.
White spent most of the afternoon explaining the background and composition of the first of three forensic reports before the court.
The National Prosecuting Authority alleges the Trifecta Group entered into a number of lease agreements with the Northern Cape social development department in which rentals, or rental space, were grossly inflated.
As a result, the Trifecta Group received, or would receive, rentals of R57-million at the end of the lease agreements.
There were also leases involving two other government departments.
White explained the Jyba Trust, with beneficiaries to be named by Botha, acquired 10% shares in Trifecta Investment Holdings for only R100, while the shares were worth millions.
Scholtz and a deceased Northern Cape businessperson Sarel Breda were the directors of Trifecta Investment Holdings through their own trusts.
Breda died in an aircraft crash in the Northern Cape in March 2009.
White told the court that the national treasury appointed PWC to investigate the various lease agreements entered into involving Trifecta in January 2012.
Earlier, all the accused handed in plea explanations to the court after pleading not guilty to all the charges.
Scholtz explained he asked Breda to help with a business opportunity after it was identified there was a massive shortage of infrastructure in the Northern Cape.
This included office space in Kimberley and surrounding towns.
Scholtz told the court he had very little knowledge of Trifecta transactions in the Northern Cape done by Breda.
He denied any alleged attempt to give the other accused money as a reward for getting government leases.
Botha, in her plea explanation, also denied that the 10% shares she received in Trifecta Investment Holdings was gratification.
In his plea explanation, Block said at the time of the alleged offences he was not employed by a government department and he had to fend for himself as a businessperson.
Referring to some payments to him, Block said those were payments for work done in his personal capacity.
Contested renovations to an Upington guesthouse, apparently done with Trifecta money, were done through a loan from Breda.
Block was paying the loan, the court heard.
He further denied he had committed unlawful acts of corruption or influenced anybody to act unlawfully in regard to leases for Trifecta.
Botes, in his plea explanation, said he denied any unlawful act such as efforts to convince the department of social development to take a rental contract with Trifecta.
Referring to certain payments from Trifecta, Botes said those were salary payments for a period while not employed by a government department.
The trial continues. – Sapa
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