Cwele case: witness in Brazil jail may testify on video

2010-10-15 00:00

THE testimony of alleged South Coast drug mule Tessa Beetge could provide crucial answers in the trial of Sheryl Cwele (49) and Nigerian Frank Nabolisa (41), who are charged with trafficking in cocaine, and the judge has urged the state to consider ways of getting her evidence before court.

High court Judge Piet Koen suggested one way might be via a video link between the Brazilian jail, where Beetge is serving an eight-year sentence, or possibly on commission. He urged state advocate Ian Cooke and the defence to give thought to the matter.

“It seems to be more and more, with two versions being advanced, that Tessa Beetge’s evidence might be crucial for a proper verdict,” he said.

Cooke earlier abandoned his intention to attempt to admit a written statement from Beetge, which means she cannot be cross-examined.

He said he has tried to arrange for Beetge to be brought to South Africa to testify in person, but there are too many difficulties, including fears by Brazil that she might refuse to return.

The state alleges that Beetge and state witness Charmaine Moss were victims of a conspiracy by Cwele and Nabolisa to smuggle drugs internationally.

Beetge was arrested with nine or 10 kg of cocaine in her luggage at Sao Paulo airport on June 13, 2008.

Investigating officer Lieutenant-Colonel Izak Ludick told the court the street value of cocaine is between R200 and R500 per gram depending on the purity. The value of the cocaine in Beetge’s possession was therefore between R2 million and R5 million.

Beetge’s ex-boyfriend of three years, Hendrik Claasen, testified yesterday that the day Beetge left for overseas he was with her in Cwele’s office and Cwele told Beetge she would be paid £1 000 (R10 900) per week for the two weeks she was to be in London.

Claasen said Cwele also asked if he was interested in a job overseas, but he refused. He accompanied Beetge to Cwele’s house where Cwele gave Beetge a “good luck” coat for London, along with R500 cash.

Cwele’s advocate suggested to Claasen that this was a “concocted story” and that Cwele met him only at Beetge’s request to reassure him as Claasen was jealous and worried she was going overseas with another man.

 

THE court was yesterday handed a faxed copy of a detailed medical report indicating that key witness Charmaine Moss is unfit to testify before October 29, and stating she is suffering from hypertension, anxiety disorder, panic attacks and insomnia. The state and defence have yet to discuss the implications of the report. The case will resume on Monday.

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