Asbestos case postponed for further investigation ahead of Magashule’s arrest, Newsline

CAPE TOWN – The case against the seven accused charged to date in the Free State asbestos scandal has been postponed for further investigation until February 19, the National Prosecuting Authority said on Wednesday.

The NPA also mentioned “the possible addition of about three more accused persons to the charge sheet” – a reference in part to the warrant of arrest issued on Tuesday for ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.

Magashule, premier of the Free State at the time the asbestos contract was inked, is due to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

“There’s an expected first-time appearance and addition to the charge sheet on Friday, November 13, at the same court with regards to the same matters,” the NPA said in a statement.

According to the Hawks, Magashule will face corruption charges relating to the R255 million ($16.2m) contract for an asbestos audit that saw the Free State government lose about R200m.

On Wednesday, the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court extended the bail of the seven accused from September 30. Their bail was set between R50 000 and R500 000.

The seven include Gauteng businessman Edwin Sodi, who owns Blackhead Consulting, that scored the contract, and former Free State human settlements director-general Nthimotse Mokhesi.

They face charges of corruption, fraud, theft, attempted theft, money laundering, contravention of the Public Finance Management Act as well as the contravention of various asbestos regulations promulgated in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993.

The NPA has also indicted seven companies, including Blackhead Consulting and Diamond Hill Trading.

It claims fraud to the tune of R255m was committed when the Human Settlements Department appointed a joint venture between Blackhead Consulting and Diamond Hill Trading to assess and remove asbestos structures.

“The two companies subcontracted two other separate companies, of which one allegedly did the work for only R21m; R230 million was paid to the initial contracting company and Sodi, director of the company, Blackhead Consulting, who is still attempting to secure in court the ’remaining’ payment of the rest of the money, which is R25m,” the NPA said.

The state has attached assets, including Sodi’s mansion and luxury cars, to recoup the public funding lost in the deal.