Former ANC North Cape chair in appeal against 15-year verdict for rejection of corruption

Political leaders should set an example and not abuse public offices to collect corrupt personal wealth, the Supreme Court (SCA) ruled Tuesday.

The SCA said this when she opposed a call by former ANC Northern Cape chairman John Block and former businessman Christo Scholtz, who had each been sentenced in December 2016 to prison sentences of 15 years for money laundering and corruption.

Block and Scholtz were tried and convicted in the Northern Cape Division of the High Court.

"In these circumstances it was necessary to send an unambiguous message that corruption of politicians with a high position would not be tolerated," the SCA decided.

Block and Scholtz had lodged an appeal against their convictions and the punishment imposed on them both.

The indictment resulted from a number of lease agreements concluded in May 2006 to August 2008 by two different state entities and departments in the North Cape with members of what became known as the Trifecta group.

Scholtz, a businessman from Pretoria engaged in private equity, came into contact with Sarel Breda, with whom he identified the business prospects in the North Cape.

Their business model was to identify dilapidated buildings that could be renovated into offices and subsequently leased to government agencies.

This was done and in due time a number of lease contracts were concluded that took the core of the allegations that were made.

The trial court ruled that Block, who was a high-ranking politician in the province, corrupted his influence and ensured that Breda and its companies obtained certain of these lease contracts.

These were concluded with the state without the necessary legal protocols and procedures being followed.

Substantial bonuses were paid to the block, including two payments of R228,000 and R500,000.

Block, who resigned as party chairman and MEC financed shortly after being found guilty in October 2015, had appealed against this finding.

"SCA has comprehensively analyzed the evidence relating to these specific censuses and found that the two amounts of R228 000 and R500 000 were corrupt gratuities under the allegation of corruption as set out in the indictment – which only concerned the conclusion of lease contracts for two buildings, the Kimberlite Hotel and the NCTC building ", according to the SCA.

Block argued on behalf of Block that he could not be convicted of corruption, since he had received these amounts after the contracts were concluded. The SCA has rejected this.

With regard to the conviction, the SCA stated that there were no substantial and compelling circumstances justifying a lower sentence than the 15-year prison sentence that the legislator had prescribed for this offense.

The SCA found, also in the case of Scholtz, that there were no special and compelling circumstances justifying the imposition of a sentence less than the prescribed minimum of 15 years' imprisonment with regard to the corruption within the indictment.

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