Cheeky Watson let down by trial delay

IPTS fraud case drags on as co-accused’s application for postponement to December granted

Cheeky Watson was hoping to stand trial alone as he was only facing two charges and was ready for his fraud case to start while the others accused of defrauding the Nelson Mandela Bay Integrated Public Transport System (IPTS) bus service wanted more time to prepare.
The former EP Rugby boss’s request was, however, turned down in court on Monday.
And so, the multimillionrand fraud case centred on the IPTS continues to move at a snail’s pace following a successful application brought by Watson’s four co-accused.
The marathon trial is now only expected to begin in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court on December 10.
All five accused face charges of fraud and money-laundering relating to the IPTS.
Two applications were brought before the court.
First it was Watson’s co-accused who wanted the fraud case to commence in December and, subsequently, Watson’s defence counsel brought an application for separation of trial, citing prejudice.
Prior to magistrate Lionel Lindoor ruling in favour of the postponement, advocate Francois van Zyl SC, for Watson, told the court the parties were ready to proceed with trial on Monday, except for three of those charged who requested the postponement.
Van Zyl expressed unhappiness at the slow pace of the case, saying “we have been dragged into this”.
“My client is accused in the media of stealing R80m.
“He is only faced with two counts and we are considering an application for separation of trial,” Van Zyl said.
In turning down the application, Lindoor acknowledged that Watson would suffer, among other things, financial prejudice, if there was no separation of trial.
However, he took cognisance of the fact that the state would suffer the same fate considering that the same witnesses would have to be recalled to testify against Watson if separation of trial was granted.About four months ago, the parties agreed that the matter would begin on August 20 but on Monday, attorney Carolyn Ah Shene-Verdoorn, instructed by advocate Michelle Benecke, brought an application for the trial to start in December.
She represents Zeranza director Andrea Wessels and former Laphum’ilanga Transport Services director Mandisi Mkasa.
The other accused involved are former metro finance department assistant director Nadia Gerwel, who was represented by advocate Terry Price SC, and former Access Facilities and Leisure Management chief executive Stephan Pretorius, who was represented by attorney Alwyn Griebenow.
It is alleged Gerwel and Wessels used events management company ESP Africa as a vehicle to launder the money, but when that was no longer viable, they turned to Access Facilities and Leisure Management, and thereafter, EP Rugby.
Benecke, who recently took over the case, cited matters such as new charges being added, incomplete affidavits, missing statements in the docket, and witnesses’ statements not commissioned properly, in requesting a postponement.
But the request did not go down well with advocate Tjaard van Zyl, for the state.He dismissed Benecke’s assertion and accused her of delaying tactics, saying none of the other legal counsel raised such issues but instead were happy to proceed on Monday.
Van Zyl laid the blame on Benecke or Ah Shene-Verdoorn for “dragging their feet”.
In granting the application for a postponement, Lindoor said he wanted to afford the opportunity to other defence counsel to prepare the case adequately.

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