No warrants of arrest yet for John Block and Christo Scholtz

24 August 2018 - 09:39 By Naledi Shange And Ernest Mabuza
John Block. File photo.
John Block. File photo.
Image: Tsheko Kabasia

A warrant of arrest will only be issued for former ANC Northern Cape chairman John Block and his business associate Christo Scholtz if they fail to appear in the Kimberley High Court on Monday‚ the Hawks said on Friday.

On Tuesday‚ the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) dismissed the pair’s appeal against 15-year jail terms imposed on them for corruption.

"Only if they do not come to court on Monday will a warrant of arrest be issued‚" said The Hawks’ Nomthandazo Mnisi. Mnisi confirmed that the pair had not turned themselves over to a correctional facility following their failed appeal.

She stated‚ however‚ that the Supreme Court of Appeal had not ordered their immediate reincarceration following its ruling and dismissed reports that Block and Scholtz were “wanted fugitives”.

"When we went to check Block’s house [on Thursday] we were told that he went to Upington in the morning‚" said Mnisi‚ clarifying that this did not mean he had fled.

The charges on which Block and Scholtz were convicted arose from lease agreements from May 2006 to August 2008 between various state entities and departments in the Northern Cape and members of what became known as the Trifecta group of companies.

Scholtz‚ a businessman from Pretoria who was involved in the private-equity business‚ identified business prospects in the Northern Cape with Sarel Breda.

Their business model was to identify rundown buildings that could be renovated into offices and then leased to state entities. A number of leases were concluded.

The Northern Cape High Court held that Block‚ then a senior politician in the province‚ had corruptly used his influence to ensure Breda and his companies obtained some of the leases. They were concluded with the state without the necessary statutory protocols and procedures being followed.

Block‚ in return‚ was paid substantial gratifications‚ including two sums of R228,000 and R500,000.

Scholtz and Block were convicted of corruption by the High Court and each sentenced to 15 years. They were eventually granted leave to appeal against their convictions and sentences.

On Tuesday‚ the SCA held that Block and Scholtz were correctly convicted of corruption and their appeal failed.

Judge Eric Leach said a statement by Block’s counsel confirming that he maintained his elderly parents and extended family‚ that he partially lost the use of his right arm after a motor vehicle accident and that he suffered from high blood pressure was not disputed.

It was argued that a fine of R1-million‚ coupled with a suspended sentence‚ would be an adequate sentence for Block’s corruption conviction.

“I cannot agree. Mr Block was a political leader who achieved high political office. Unfortunately‚ he used his status to corruptly enrich himself‚” Leach said.

He said if there was any prospect of fighting endemic corruption in South Africa‚ it was for political leaders to set the example and not to misuse public office to corruptly obtain personal wealth.

In the case of Scholtz‚ the appeal court had regard for his personal circumstances‚ including the fact that his wife died in 2013 and that he had lost his son in a tragic farming incident.

The court said it was not persuaded that Scholtz’s personal circumstances constituted convincing reasons for a sentence less than the prescribed minimum.

“Successful business people should set the standard by acting properly‚ not corruptly‚” said Leach.

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