Watson pleads 'not guilty'
NEWS: The former Eastern Province Rugby Union President Cheeky Watson has pleaded ‘not guilty’ to charges of fraud and money laundering in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court on Tuesday.
According to a report by the HeraldLIVE website, Watson said he had no idea that anything was amiss when he was asked to accept a deposit of ZAR2.9m into the EPRU bank account, which would then be transferred to entertainment company Zeranza’s coffers.
Watson and three others – Nadia Gerwel, Andrea Wessels and Mandisi Mkasa – are accused of fraudulent activities involving ZAR12-million that was meant for Port Elizabeth’s Integrated Public Transport System.
In his plea explanation, the former EPRU boss stated that he was unaware of any fraudulent activities.
He alleged that he had no suspicions that something was wrong when Gerwel, former assistant director of accounting in the Nelson Mandela Metro, transferred the money into the EPRU account.
A charge of failure to report fraud has been added to Watson’s charge sheet, meaning that he now faces three charges, including money laundering and fraud.
In total, Watson and his co-accused – the former assistant director in the metro’s finance department, Gerwel, Wessels (a local businesswoman) and her events company Zeranza, former director of Laphum’ilanga Mandisa Mkasa, and former chief executive of Access Facilities and Leisure Management Pretorius – face a total of 44 charges between them.
Watson and the other accused have all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Watson has been charged for his alleged role in the misappropriation of the R2.9m meant for the IPTS.
The state alleges that Watson willingly and unlawfully allowed the multimillion-rand transaction made by the municipality at the behest of Gerwel to be moved from the EP Rugby bank account into Zeranza’s account in February 2013.
It is alleged that Gerwel, Wessels and Watson defrauded the municipality by submitting a fake invoice to Access Management claiming EP Rugby was owed the money by the municipality for profit share from a Test match between South Africa and New Zealand in 2011.
The accused allegedly also falsely claimed the money with an invoice not issued in the normal and regular course of business.
Watson claimed in his plea explanation that he had been approached by Gerwel at his EP Rugby Football Union offices in early February 2013 to inform him that ZAR2.9m had to be paid to Zeranza and that the money would be released to the EPRU and should then be paid to Zeranza.
He said he had been told by Gerwel that the municipality owed the money to Zeranza for services rendered with regard to a music festival.
It emerged during the court proceedings that the music festival meant to be hosted at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in 2012 – allegedly to raise funds for Laphum’ilanga – never happened.
Later in February 2013, Gerwel – accompanied by Wessels – met Watson again and allegedly told him that the R2.9m would be released into the account of EP Rugby.
EP Rugby was, at that stage, the anchor tenant at the stadium managed by Access.