Cwele opts for silence

2011-03-10 00:00

DRUG-TRAFFICKING accused Sheryl Cwele and Nigerian Frank Nabolisa both elected not to testify in their defence yesterday and closed their case without leading any evidence.

This means the court has not heard live testimony from any of the three alleged central roleplayers in the drugs trial, having ruled previously against hearing the evidence of alleged South Coast drug mule Tessa Beetge from Brazil via Skype. The court will decide the case based on the circumstantial evidence presented by the prosecution.

Cwele’s decision not to give evidence in her defence followed a decision yesterday by Judge Piet Koen, sitting with assessor Gerhard Barnard, not to grant an application for Cwele’s discharge at the close of the state’s case.

The judge said he will give his reasons for that ruling during judgment at the end of the trial.

Cwele’s advocate, Mvuseni Ngubane, submitted that the state has not produced any evidence on which a reasonable court could convict her.

Ngubane maintained that an affidavit Cwele made in support of her bail application last year — which, he submitted, now forms “part of the state’s case” — provided satisfactory explanations for her conduct.

“I submit there is an innocent ring to her explanations,” he said.

Ngubane also attacked the validity of a transcript of intercepted cellphone calls and SMSes compiled by police on the grounds that the document was not properly proved by the prosecution.

For example, he said no evidence was led by the state to confirm that the computer that recorded the calls at police headquarters was “perfect” or that the information downloaded on to CD had not been “manipulated”.

He said he is concerned that police had “sifted” through the information captured by the recording and decided what they regarded as relevant before it was placed before court.

In reply, state advocate Ian Cooke said the original CD containing the information was available to the defence at all times. He added that it would not be possible to transcribe all the intercepted conversations — which included private communications — between the parties and which were irrelevant to the investigation.

Cooke argued that the evidence presented by the state requires answers from Cwele. He said the “whole situation reeks of suspicion” when one looks at the interaction between Cwele and Nabolisa concerning Beetge and their other alleged recruit, Charmaine Moss, both prior to and after Beetge’s arrest at Sao Paulo airport in Brazil on June 13, 2008, with 10 kg of cocaine in her luggage.

He submitted the only inference to be drawn is that Cwele was “in cahoots” with Nabolisa and had recruited Beetge and Moss because of their personal circumstances and need for money.

He said Cwele’s evidence in the affidavit filed at her bail hearing has not been tested under cross-examination.

The court will hear legal arguments presented by the defence and state next Wednesday.

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