Defence, Naidoo clash

2015-03-14 00:00

THE defence for murder accused Rajivee Soni and “rogue” ex-policeman Sugen Naidoo were at odds yesterday over the role played by Mountain Rise police commander Brigadier Francis Bantham after the murder of doctor Bhavish Sewram.

It emerged yesterday that Bantham — named by Naidoo as a friend of Soni (who denies the relationship) — will testify for the defence in Soni’s trial.

This was said by Soni’s attorney, Naren Sangham, while cross examining Naidoo, who provided police with a 47-page statement after Sewram’s murder.

The statement, and Naidoo’s evidence, details an alleged smear campaign directed at Sewram by Soni prior to the ­doctor’s murder, as well as ­evidence about an alleged R150 000 offer by Soni for ­another ex-policeman, Brian Treasurer, to shoot Sewram.

Sewram was shot three times in his bakkie as he was about to drive away from his surgery the night of May 13, 2013.

Naidoo has testified that after he made a statement to Hawks investigators on May 22, 2013, about what he knew of the ­murder, Bantham wanted to know from him if he had made a statement.

He denied it because he was advised by the investigating ­officer not to tell anyone, he said.

While he maintained ­yesterday that this discussion happened when he “bumped” into Bantham at the Golden Horse Casino, Sangham said Bantham would testify that the conversation took place in her office and that there was “nothing untoward” because she was Naidoo’s commander.

Sangham also suggested that Bantham’s subsequent dealings with Naidoo concerning his eventual transfer to Howick ­police, were always with his best interests at heart.

But Naidoo said this was not true.

He said his previously cordial relationship with Bantham became “volatile” after he told her he’d made a statement to police. It was also then that she’d said Soni was “not guilty and will walk the case”.

Naidoo confirmed he was admitted to hospital a “few weeks” after making his police statement, and that he’d called ­Bantham from there and revealed making the statement.

However, he denied saying to her that he was “put under extreme pressure” by two investigators to make the statement.

Naidoo said the reason he phoned Bantham from hospital was because a “lot of rumours” were going around that he was the person who’d shot Sewram, and he thought Bantham was the only one who could help him.

Naidoo said he realised what a “monster” he was after reading his own statement.

“I was disgusted at myself. No one in their right mind would keep me in employment, but I was assured by Brigadier ­Bantham that my job was safe,” said Naidoo.

He alleged she did ­“everything in her power” to prevent him getting the transfer he applied for to Howick. “My understanding of this was that if I had to remain at Mountain Rise and continue with my corrupt activities and my drugging, I would not have made it to this witness stand today,” he said.

Naidoo said he had had to ­engage an attorney to facilitate his transfer.

The defence suggested to him that in fact Bantham had ­recommended his transfer to Howick and acted in his best ­interests by urging Howick police to keep him in the uniform branch (and not detectives) for his own protection.

Sangham told Naidoo that when Bantham testified, she would produce documentary proof that she was “suspicious” of his activities at Mountain Rise for a “long time”, and enlisted crime intelligence to investigate him and a number of other ­policemen.

Naidoo replied he did not know he was being investigated, but added that his corrupt ­activities were “blatant”.

“She [Bantham] could have caught me herself if she wanted to,” he said.

SUGEN Naidoo, who admitted being addicted to cocaine for years, revealed yesterday that in about 2009 he and “about four other policemen” used to snort cocaine (in powder form) at Mountain Rise police station.

Naidoo said his addiction grew after it became even easier to access the cocaine because a policeman at the station started to sell the drug.

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