ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule was granted bail of R200,000 on Friday in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court after he was arrested on 21 charges of fraud and corruption, alternatively theft and money laundering, stemming from the Free State asbestos scandal.
The National Prosecuting Authority’s indictment of Magashule details a handful of gratifications he allegedly accepted or condoned on behalf of others from businessman Ignatius Mpambani, the murdered boss of Diamond Hill Trading.
These payments total more than R1.1 million and include R53,550 paid to Refiloe Mokoena, the axed former head of legal at the South African Revenue Service, towards the tuition fees of her daughter and R250,000 towards the travel fees of a delegation to Cuba.
The state also alleges that in June 2015 Magashule accepted payment of R470,000, paid on his request to a company called M–TAG Systems for the purchase of 200 electronic tablets from Mpambani. In two other transactions, another R300,000 was spent on tablets.
Magashule faces several charges of contravening the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act and eight counts of fraud. The latter sees him accused of giving the false appearance that a contract between the Free State Department of Human Settlements and a joint venture between Diamond Hill and Edwin Sodi’s Blackhead Consulting was lawful and that he had no personal financial interest in the deal.
The venture was granted a R255,000 contract to audit and remove hazardous asbestos from structures in the Free State, despite having no expertise in the field, and is alleged to have channelled most of the money to the politically connected.
No asbestos removal was ever done, and the state has frozen assets worth about R300,000, including Sodi’s mansion and luxury cars, in a bid to recover the lost contract value plus interest.
Magashule, 61, counts as accused number 13 in the asbestos case and is by far the most senior politician arrested to date in connection with the so-called state capture scandal that saw billions in public funds lost in rent-seeking ventures.
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