On Thursday morning, former ANC MP Vincent Smith became the latest arrest on charges related to State Capture.
Appearing in the specialised commercial crimes court at the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court about two hours after handing himself over to police, Smith pleaded not guilty on one charge of corruption and one charge of fraud.
Dressed in a blue suit and wearing a surgical mask, Smith did not speak beyond noting his understanding of the court procedure.
Smith has been charged alongside his property development company Euro Blitz 48 and former Bosasa chief operations officer Angelo Agrizzi. The former ANC MP stands accused of having received payments and services valued at just over R870,000 from Bosasa, its late CEO Gavin Watson, and/or Agrizzi.
These “gratifications”, as recorded in the State’s indictment, consisted of:
Smith previously acknowledged receiving these payments to the Zondo Commission, saying that the “Aber Accom/Tuition” payment was for his daughter’s fees at the University of Aberystwyth in Wales.
Smith claimed, however, that the money stemmed from a personal loan agreement he had made with Agrizzi, rather than being related to Bosasa.
“It was never ever a Bosasa agreement,” Smith told the Zondo Commission.
The State disagrees.
Smith’s indictment charges that the gratifications were “corruptly given and received as improper inducements in furtherance of an ongoing scheme to influence [Smith] to use his office and/or position in Parliament and/or his political influence to the advantage of Bosasa and/or [Agrizzi] and/or Gavin Watson”.
Smith is accused of having used his position as chairperson of Parliament’s Correctional Services Committee to shut down concerns about the improper awarding of prison contracts to Bosasa, and of having defended the practice of outsourcing. This was despite the fact that at the time when Smith took over the chairing of the committee, it had been advised to investigate the Bosasa contracts as a priority.
Smith’s failure to scrutinise the contracts as was his duty “amounts to an incomplete or biased exercise of his powers” as a parliamentarian, states the indictment.
The fraud charge also faced by Smith relates to his failure to disclose the financial benefits he was receiving from Bosasa to the parliamentary Register of Members’ Interests, as he was required to do.
Smith is accused of having “intentionally omitted and/or failed to disclose” these benefits, and in so doing caused prejudice to both Parliament and to the public, in terms of the latter’s right to know the financial interests held by their MPs.
In court on Thursday morning, it was noted by both the State prosecutors and the defence that Smith had been aware of his impending arrest for some time, and had cooperated fully with investigators.
In a short affidavit read out by his lawyer, Smith affirmed his innocence on the two charges and said: “I believe the State will not be able to present any objective facts that I planned the act of corruption.”
Among the reasons given for why Smith should be granted bail was that he has current responsibilities which include “drafting a paper for the Zondo Commission”.
Smith was described in court as a 60-year-old pensioner with no criminal record, whose current monthly income amounts to R21,000 per month. There was no opposition to the granting of bail, since the State agreed that Smith is not a flight risk.
Though the defence requested his bail amount be set at R20,000, the State requested and received a bail of R30,000 due to the large amounts stipulated in the corruption charge. Smith was warned not to contact any potential witnesses in the matter and told to hand in his passport to the investigating officer.
Smith is expected back in court 14 October 2020.
A statement after the arrests from the Investigating Directorate (ID) run by Hermione Cronje said that the ID had worked together with the South African Revenue Services (SARS) and the Hawks on the Smith-Bosasa matter.
It added that Smith and his company will be facing separate charges resulting from a SARS investigation. DM
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