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Syndicate accused await bail fate

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'The accused knowing that the police were looking for them, kept on committing crimes'

BACK IN COURT. Picture: Danie van der Lith

THE STATE prosecutor in the case against eight accused, believed to be linked to a nationwide criminal syndicate, has asked that bail be denied, pointing out that there are about 14 dockets against the accused.

The accused are facing various charges including fraud, extortion and kidnapping and are believed to be part of a syndicate that has been operating throughout the Province and in other parts of the country.

Originally 10 people were arrested but charges were withdrawn against one accused, Maria Martin, while another accused, Jonas Riet, has already been sentenced to an effective five years imprisonment.

The remaining accused – Trevor Mohapi, Andrew George, Isak Cupido, Wouter Viljoen, Maloba Chimboyo, Luthando Mangaliso, Andre Pillay and Jan van der Westhuizen – will remain in custody until judgment is delivered regarding their bail application, which continued in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

Nkululeko Gqadushe, who is representing seven of the accused, namely Mohapi, George, Cupido, Chimboyo, Mangaliso, Pillay and Van der Westhuizen, pointed out in his heads of argument on Friday that it was in the interests of justice that the accused be released on bail, adding that the court had to weigh the interests of justice against the rights of the accused.

Gqadushe added that the accused were likely to suffer prejudice if bail was not granted and that they should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“They must also not be denied bail because the State feels that there is a strong chance that they will be found guilty. They also cannot be denied bail because of a possibility or chance that they might commit a further offence. It is my submission that there is not a substantial fear or possibility that they might commit an offence while out on bail.”

Regarding a pending case in Galeshewe against some of the accused, Gqadushe pointed out that the bail application was still pending in the Galeshewe matter when they were arrested for this case.

“If these charges were consolidated earlier by the State prosecutor, the accused would not have pending cases against them. It is not a case where they committed these offences while out on bail.”

In the case of Cupido, he stated that he was an old man and should be released on bail because of his ill-health which required medical treatment.

“If he is denied bail, his health will deteriorate and Correctional Services does not have proper facilities to cater for him.”

Gqadushe added that all the accused he was representing had taken the court into their confidence by revealing their previous convictions.

He requested the court to consider the constitutional rights of the accused and pointed out that several of the accused provided for their children.

“The court must consider this and ensure that its decisions don’t have negative effects on minors. It must also consider the lengthy time that the accused have already been in custody. They were arrested in December and it appears that this will be a complex case, which might drag on for a long time.”

Viljoen, who represented himself, stated that the State did not have a strong case against him and were relying on Section 204 witnesses, who he stated were “self-confessed criminals”, and the fact that his photograph was identified by one of the witnesses. “This was only after my photograph appeared in the newspaper and on social media.”

He added that the facilities of Correctional Services were overcrowded and posed a threat to his dignity and security while it also prevented him from having the adequate time and facilities to prepare his defence. He appealed to the court to consider the negative impact of his incarceration, especially since it was evident that this would be a long trial and if not granted bail, he would have to spend a long time in prison. “I am in an extremely vulnerable position as the State is not recognising its duties under the provisions of the Bill of Rights.”

The State prosecutor, Cornelia Deetlefs, stated that the accused had committed several offences with the same modus operandi to different complainants over a period of time, working together as a gang or syndicate.

“The accused, knowing that the police were looking for them, kept on committing crime. They did not come back to Kimberley after their release in Bloemfontein and even though they knew that they were being sought by the police they fled and went to Bloemfontein.”

She added that the State had about 14 dockets against the accused. “The State will be drafting a charge sheet to request a certificate from the NDPP for centralisation and to charge the accused with racketeering. This will result in lengthy imprisonment if convicted.”

According to Deetlefs, one of the accused, Riet, was attacked in the court cells by one of the accused after a court sitting. “The accused have also called people from prison and threatened them by sending messages.”

She pointed out that Chimboyo was a police official and had access to the SAPS offices while Mangaliso was acting illegally as a reservist. “Both of them have access to SAPS offices and this may result in them trying to gain access to information or destroy evidence.”

“These are extremely serious offences. The accused are motivated by greed and the public is not safe by granting them bail.”

She added that the charges involved amounted to more than R100 000. “The trauma they have caused to people and will cause is extreme. They do not deserve to be granted bail.”

The case was postponed to April 9 for a decision on the bail application.