‘Drug queen’ broke house arrest

2008-03-09 00:00

Alleged Pietermaritzburg “drug queen” Ramjini Chetty has admitted in an affidavit before local magistrate Celumusa Ndwandwe that, despite being under house arrest, she has “on occasion” visited the Golden Horse Casino to “alleviate the stress” of her pending trial.

Her advocate Brad Osborne has urged the court to take into account that — although this is a breach of her bail conditions in a 2005 drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering case — her house arrest has already lasted longer than that of many people who are convicted of crimes and sentenced to correctional supervision.

Her trial on those charges is only due to start on May 5.

Osborne submitted that had the officials charged with monitoring her movements kept her under proper supervision, she would not have been able to “pop into” the casino.

He said the bail conditions imposed on her are “very strict, even punitive”.

Scorpions advocate Waldo Smit responded that it is not the responsibility of the state to protect an accused against herself. “[Chetty] knew these were the conditions of her bail and she blatantly ignored them. It is [irrelevant] how long she has been under house arrest.”

The Scorpions are again opposing the granting of bail to Chetty following her arrest last October on new charges of contravening the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act involving more than R10 000 worth of cocaine. The state alleges that Chetty controlled a drug syndicate that operated from her home at 19 Queen Street, Pietermaritzburg.

It argues that it is aggravating that she allegedly continued her activities while out on bail in the earlier case.

The state submitted she has to show exceptional circumstances to qualify for bail, and argues that there is a strong prima facie case.

In her latest affidavit, Chetty said her father suffered a heart attack on February 29, making her release imperative. She said her young children who have “special needs” require her care.

Senior Scorpions special investigator Amod Hoosen said according to his information Chetty’s father was admitted to hospital with chest pains, but is expected to return to work this week.

He suggested there are family members who can care for the children, including their father, but said if this is not possible arrangements could be made for foster care.

Osborne termed the suggestion “cold and heartless”.

Osborne submitted that Chetty, who describes herself as a “self-employed businesswoman” needs to be able to earn money to fund her defence and provide for her family, and said she is not a flight risk. She had appeared in court whenever required while on bail in the earlier case.

He said it is difficult to consult adequately with her in prison for what are complex charges.

“My client wants the opportunity to prove her innocence,” he said.

The magistrate is expected to give a ruling on March 17.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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