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Syndicate accused gets bail

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Mohapi stated that there were a number of factors that warranted his bail application on new facts

Trevor Mohapi

BAIL of R5 000, following the presentation of new facts, was yesterday granted to Trevor Mohapi, one of the men accused of being a member of a criminal syndicate that has been defrauding members of the public by impersonating law enforcement officials.

Having already spent more than a year in custody, Mohapi, along with co-accused Maloba Chimboyo and Luthando Mangaliso, returned to the dock in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court last week to apply to be released pending the outcome of their trial.

After making an earlier application to the Northern Cape High Court to intervene, Chimboyo and Mangaliso opted to abandon their application last Thursday, while Mohapi introduced new facts into evidence in an effort to justify his release from custody.

In an affidavit read into evidence, Mohapi stated that there were a number of factors that warranted his bail application on new facts.

These included the fact that he has already been in custody for more than a year without his trial commencing, while a number of charges that were due to be brought against him were yet to materialise.

Among these is a case of assault – which was opened by another co-accused, Jonas Riet, who was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in March after entering into a plea agreement. Mohapi has yet to be formally charged for the alleged assault.

Mohapi further pointed out that, apart from the testimony of a “204” witness, there was no evidence implicating him in some of the charges he is currently facing, adding that he had not been lawfully kept in custody on all charges.

Before Magistrate Pauline Coollen postponed the matter to this week, Mohapi also stated that, if released, he would not be able to influence State witnesses as their testimonies had already been collected by investigators.

Mohapi’s application continued in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court yesterday morning with the investigating officer (IO), Warrant Officer Bongani Msuthwa, acknowledging that there were a number of changes to the initial charge sheet as several additional charges, that were due to be brought at the time of the earlier bail application, had not materialised.

Other charges that Mohapi was originally facing had also been modified as a result of further investigations. These included one count of fraud which was withdrawn and replaced with charges of attempted extortion and kidnapping after it was established that no money had exchanged hands.

This resulted in a significant reduction in the monetary amount believed to have been involved.

Regarding the assault allegations, the defence pointed out that, in the absence of witnesses, Riet withdrew his complaint in February this year.

When asked his opinion on whether Mohapi should be granted bail and if so what the conditions for his release should be, Msuthwa said he had reservations as there was a possibility that the accused may interfere with witnesses and complainants that are known to him.

The IO felt that bail should be denied or be set at R10 000 with stringent conditions attached.

“If the court grants bail, we would be setting a precedent that a person can do whatever and then just be released,” said Msuthwa. “People have lost money and have suffered.

“If released, he should have a foot-monitoring system, report daily to the local police station, not be allowed to leave Kimberley and not come into any contact with any witnesses or complainants.”

Before transferring the matter to the regional court, Coollen said that she was satisfied that Mohapi had provided adequate information that could be considered “new facts” and she granted bail of R5 000 with the condition that the accused refrain from making any contact with witnesses.

“The court must make a decision based on the information that is given,” explained the magistrate. “In a bail application on new facts, this information must be new and relevant. It cannot just comprise of a reshuffle of existing evidence.

“The court is of the opinion that all information constitutes new facts.”