By Bongani Tshabalala
BLOEMFONTEIN-Former personal driver of Ace Magashule, Ricardo Mettler’s new legal representative , Advocate Hannes Peyper, says his client Ricardo Mettler has instructed him to launch a court bid against his sentencing in the High Court in Bloemfontein.
Peyper who has 14 days period to file an appeal says, they are looking at doing so around next week.
He however refused to comment on whether Judge Soma Naidoo, in her sentencing, might have been harsh and went overboard.
He says he can’t react to the judgment yet because he still needs to study the records and finalise the appeal.
Mettler was found guilty in 2020 on four counts of theft, fraud, money laundering and perjury.
Judge Naidoo handed down a -15-year prison sentence for theft, 15 years for money laundering, 15 years for fraud and 12 years for perjury. Counts 2 and 4 are set to run concurrently.
It’s been said that he stole the Pierneef painting with the intention of selling it to a Bloemfontein businessman Wei-Lin Hsu or use it as a guarantee for a loan of more than R2 million.
Following Hsu’s testimony in court, he was exempted from prosecution.
In 2020, the court heard how Mettler approached Hsu on the day of Premier Sisi Ntombela’s inauguration on 28 March 2018 and asked for financial assistance. Mettler is said to have delivered the painting to the offices of Hsu a day later following an agreement between the two about a loan guarantee.
Mettler’s initial statement read that he was gifted this valuable art piece by Magashule during the move to Johannesburg to take his new position as ANC (SG) Secretary General.
Contrary to the claims, Magashule testified in court and told the judge when he was vacating the Premier’s office, he gave various personal items to different people, including Mettler. He also testified that he did not even know if “Pierneef” was a painting or an actual person.
The state has called a total of 14 witnesses, including his former PA Moroadi Cholota.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in the Free State says the -15-year jail term imposed on Mettler will serve as a deterrent to many others.
The NPA spokesperson, Phaladi Shuping, says Mettler’s sentence shows that the law will not allow people in public office to use state resources for their own benefit.