A forensic investigator’s testimony in a Cape Town court on Wednesday, turned a case involving a hotel’s project to renovate rooms, into a trial-within-a-trial.
The project led to a scheme involving “kickbacks” for work corruptly allocated on fraudulent quotations, it is alleged.
The case, in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Bellville, involves the Table Bay Hotel and the hotel’s former maintenance administrator, Ian John Pakoe.
Pakoe has pleaded not guilty, before magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg, to multiple charges of corruption, as well as money laundering and tax evasion.
The charge sheet details huge amounts of money being allocated by the hotel for the room renovation programme, involving several service providers.
The programme was under the control of the hotel’s maintenance department, with Pakoe and Anthony Lottering, the maintenance manager, in control of the allocation of contracts and the flow of money to the service providers.
The programme involved tenders, with Lottering recommending the appointment of specific service providers for specific tasks.
According to the charge sheet, the hotel’s finance department assumed that due process had been followed in the allocation of contracts, and paid service providers on Lottering’s recommendation.
Prosecutor Simon Leope alleges that Pakoe and Lottering devised a scheme in which they would receive kickbacks for work corruptly allocated to service providers.
Pakoe was romantically involved with Ferosa Ismail, who at the time was in the employ of one of the hotel’s service providers, Glass and Allied Industries.
It is alleged that Pakoe recruited Ismail for the scheme, and that she resigned her job with the glass company to start her own business as a front for the submissions of tenders.
It is alleged that Pakoe, Lottering and Ismail met to discuss the scheme, in which Pakoe would inform Ismail of the tenders received.
This would enable Ismail to submit the lowest tender for a job, and ensure that she received the contract.
In turn, her tenders would be recommended by Pakoe, and approved by Lottering.
The court has heard of a meeting between Lottering, Pakoe and Ismail, where the main discussion was about the companies that had to be launched as fronts for the submission of tenders.
As a result, Pakoe created a sole proprietorship, I J P Consultants, and Ismael launched the two companies, Rozy’s Electrical and Building Supplies, and Hospitality Glass and Alluminium CC.
This case only involves Pakoe, cited as accused number one, and I J P Consultants, cited as accused number two.
It is alleged that the hotel paid R8 594 461 to Ismael’s Hospitality Glass and Alluminium, and R108 654 to her other company, Rozy’s Electrical.
It is alleged, in turn, that she paid kickbacks to Pakoe amounting to R958 539.
In Wednesday’s proceedings, forensic investigator Steven Powell told the court he interviewed Pakoe, Lottering and Ismail, one at a time, in three different meetings on the same day.
Powell, formerly a State advocate in the Attorney-General’s office (now the Directorate for Public Prosecutions) is currently the National Director of the forensic investigations arm of the law firm Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs.
At each meeting, he explained the constitutional rights to the individual being interviewed, he said, and he warned the individual that the interview could lead to a prosecution on “very serious” corruption charges.
He urged each individual to be completely honest, as this would count in his or her favour in the event of a prosecution.
Defence attorney Liesl Vermaak alleged that Pakoe’s statement to Powell was made under duress, and not voluntarily.
This resulted in the proceedings being turned into a trial-within-a-trial, and being postponed to December 14.
-African News Agency (ANA)