ConCourt ruling provides certainty for Intaka case

Gaston Savoi and John Block. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Gaston Savoi and John Block. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)


Now that the Constitutional Court has decided the provisions of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca) are clear and constitutional, the ongoing criminal court case around a multimillion-rand tender scam involving provincial politicians might finally be concluded.

On Wednesday, the court declined to uphold a high court ruling that declared some sections of the Act unconstitutional. The application was brought by Gaston Savoi, director of Intaka Holdings, who is an accused in the multimillion-rand fraud and corruption court case, along with politicians in the Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Intaka and Savoi's business partner and co-accused, Fernando Praderi, were co-applicants in the Constitutional Court.

Savoi, Praderi and several others are charged with money laundering, racketeering, fraud and corruption.
Essentially, Savoi and Praderi felt that some of the charges they were facing were too vague, and that the wording of certain sections of Poca allowed for a subjective analysis by a judge, which left them vulnerable.

Savoi has maintained his innocence throughout the criminal case and denies all the charges. His lawyer previously told the Mail & Guardian that Savoi welcomed the opportunity to tell his side of the story in court, and that he felt it was inappropriate to ventilate the allegations against him in the press ahead of the court case.

No doubt
The Intaka case was not a consideration for the Constitutional Court, but the success of Savoi's application would surely have been followed by the crumbling of the Intaka case. At the very least, the case would have suffered another lengthy postponement as Parliament redrafted the sections of the Act that were declared unconstitutional. 

The Intaka cases in both provinces have proceeded in a stop-start fashion, and have been hampered by the uncertainty about the implications of the Constitutional Court challenge. Now there can be no doubt that the accused will have to answer for a litany of charges in court. 

The state's case against Savoi and the others paints a picture of an organised crime ring of sorts, where tenders were used as a mechanism with which to pry funds from the state for the personal benefit of the accused. Money allegedly changed hands through a number of front companies, and Savoi admitted to giving the ANC a donation of R1-million, although he said there was nothing untoward about it.

A Cape Times investigation in 2010 revealed how 10 water purifiers, 30 on-site oxygen plants and 16 dialysis machines were purchased from Savoi's company, Intaka. So-called "commissions" were paid to front companies linked to departmental officials. 

Inflated prices
A Pricewaterhouse Coopers forensic report details how the equipment was sold at inflated rates, sometimes up to 500%.

Tender processes were allegedly flouted, with officials pushing for the rules to be broken so that Intaka could emerge as the supplier of choice for government.

In an affidavit given to the Hawks, a former hospital chief executive from Kimberley said he recalled being given "at least" R3.2-million in kickbacks from Savoi through a front company.

The affidavit details how Northern Cape ANC provincial chairperson John Block allegedly pressurised officials in the department of health into awarding the tenders to Intaka.

Block has pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics.  Read more from Sarah Evans