The people at the centre of the R21.8 million City of Ekurhuleni tender fraud appeared in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Friday.
Their lawyers argued that they should not be incarcerated, but that the court should rather impose a fine or correctional supervision.
The matter has been postponed to 22 April for sentencing.
Lawyers representing the accused in the R21.8 million City of Ekurhuleni tender fraud case which dates back to more than a decade ago, have asked the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court not to impose a direct imprisonment sentence on their clients.
They suggested that the court rather consider correctional supervision or a fine.
The accused are Velero David, Nilesh Singh, Andrew Mphushomadi, as well as Meropa Sechabeng Technology CC, represented by David and Nanga Transport CC represented by Princess Makhosazana Dlongolo.
The court found the implicated officials, business owners and the two entities guilty on several counts, including fraud, corruption and money laundering.
News24 previously reported that an investigation by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) revealed that the winning bidder of a tender for the supply and maintenance of computer components, together with bid adjudicators, failed to disclose a conflict of interest, contrary to the City’s bid policies.
The SIU said in a statement that the R21 806 331 tender bid was awarded to Meropa Sechabeng Technology CC, “which had barely been in existence for 10 months”.
In February, News24 reported that the SIU welcomed a confiscation order handed down by the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crime Court.
David and Singh were convicted on fraud and corruption charges while Mphushomadi was convicted on money laundering charges for receiving benefits of unlawful proceeds.
READ | Tender fraud: SIU confiscates property, luxury vehicles worth R21.8m from City of Ekurhuleni
The SIU confiscated property and luxury vehicles amounting to R21.8 million. According to the SIU, the confiscation order followed a seizure of properties and luxury vehicles by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) in April 2012, which emanated from the SIU’s investigation into the City
David and Singh’s lawyer, advocate Anneline Roestorf, argued at length for her clients not to be sent to jail.
“A sentence of direct imprisonment will be unconstitutional and disproportionate to the crime,” she said.
Roestorf said the court should take into account that David, currently 36-year-old, was 22 in 2007 when he signed the tender documents.
She said David had a wife and two minor children and should he be sent to jail, his family would be prejudiced.
Roestorf added that David was actively involved with his community by assisting the vulnerable.
She said from 2007 to 2022, David had worked hard to improve his community.
She added that David was charged over a decade ago and to incarcerate him now would be unconstitutional.
“With direct imprisonment, accused number one’s children would lose him. He had this matter hanging over him 10, 11 years ago. He is a man not deserving of a direct imprisonment,” she said.
Turning to Singh, Roestorf said he was 49-years-old with two chronic illnesses.
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She said prisons were overcrowded and the chances of her client coming into contact with others increased his risk of becoming seriously ill in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said Singh was married with four children and was the sole breadwinner.
She also told the court that this was not a “get out of jail free card” but “we have to consider why they should not be incarcerated”.
Roestorf added that it had been a decade already and the accused had kept their “noses clean”.
Advocate Piet Pistorius SC representing Mphushomadi and the company also asked the court for a fine.
He said Mphushomadi was a first offender and was standing before the court with an “unblemished criminal record”.
“He is successful and has studied,” he said.
He said his client had been acquitted of fraud and corruption.
“It would be an injustice to send a man to prison and he doesn’t belong there. To send him to prison will send the wrong message to the public.”
The State agreed that the court should consider a suspended fine in respect of the companies.
Prosecutor, advocate Willem van Zyl also said Mphushomadi’s should be a lesser sentence, but disagreed that the other accused should not be sent to jail.