Former ANC bigwig back in court for fraud

January 25, 2016, 4:10am

Photo: (City Press) (Emile Hendricks) on News24 

Kimberley - Once regarded as the most powerful man in the Northern Cape, former provincial ANC chairperson and MEC, John Block, returns to the Northern Cape High court in Kimberley on Monday for sentencing in his fraud and corruption trial starts.

Block, along with Trifecta director, Andre Scholtz, was found guilty in October last year on charges of fraud and corruption related to the lease of buildings to the Northern Cape social development department on behalf of the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa).

The department rented buildings owned by Trifecta in several towns, including Kimberley, Upington and Springbok.

The state proved Block used his political influence to secure lease tenders for Trifecta at exorbitant prices and received kickbacks for his efforts from the company.

Block’s defence was that he was not employed by the State when the crimes were committed. He also indicated that the money he received from Trifecta was salary he drew as a consultant.

Block resigned all his positions – as ANC provincial chairperosn, ANC MPL in the Northern Cape legislature as well as MEC for economic development – two days after the guilty verdict.

Five days set aside for sentencing

His co-accused – ANC deputy treasurer and MEC for co-operative governance and traditional affairs, Alvin Botes, charged with money laundering alongside Block – was acquitted.

Former ANC MP, Yolande Botha – who was the head of department at the social development department when the crimes took place – died during the trial following a battle with skin cancer. Scholtz’s company, Trifecta, was accused of granting unsecured loans to Botha, which were never captured in the company’s books.

Five days have been set aside for sentencing procedures in the trial that has lasted more than three years. The NPA has previously indicated that it would ask Judge Mathebe Phatshoane to impose a 15-year jail term on each of the accused.

Block and Scholtz’s lawyers will ask for non-custodial sentences. It’s understood Block will apply to appeal his conviction following the sentencing.

Support for Block and his co-accused have been unwavering in the three year trial. Several provincial cabinet members, MPLs, civil servants including heads of departments as well as ANC officials, were in the public gallery for almost every day he was in court.

On some days, ANC supporters showed their support in their masses in the park opposite the High Court. The DA and later last year, the Economic Freedom Fighters, protested outside the court calling for a conclusion to the trail and at that stage, for Block to resign.

While the ANC in the province has said it still supported it former long-time leader, it’s unclear if members of the party will be at court tomorrow.