‘Drug queen’ trial starts

2008-05-06 00:00

Pietermaritzburg’s alleged “drug queen”, Ramjini Chetty, and four others who allegedly participated in the activities of her alleged drug syndicate, went on trial in the regional court here yesterday on 36 charges.

Scorpions advocate Wendy Greef asked the court to provisionally withdraw charges against a sixth accused, Sibusiso Dlamini, who cannot be found.

The accused are Chetty, Joyce Komane, Surychand Maharaj, Bongi Dlamini and Jessendren Pillay, all of Pietermaritzburg.

They pleaded not guilty to all the charges before regional magistrate Chris van Vuuren.

These include two charges of racketeering, 26 of dealing in cocaine (or alternative charges of possessing cocaine or conspiracy to deal in the drug), seven counts of money laundering and one of fraud.

Outlining the state’s case, Greef said the state will lead about 26 witnesses, including former associates of the accused, police “trap” agents and their handlers and formal witnesses.

The accused were warned by the court at Greef’s request that they face possible minimum sentences of 20 years’ imprisonment in the case of Maharaj, Dlamini and Pillay, who are second offenders, and 15 years’ imprisonment in the case of first offenders Chetty and Komane.

In regard to the racketeering charges, heavy penalties may also be inflicted by the court, including a sentence of life imprisonment if applicable.

Defence advocate Fanie Slabbert said his clients are aware of the minimum sentences.

Racketeering is an offence under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

According to the charge sheet, central to the prohibitions against racketeering are the concepts of an “enterprise” and “pattern of racketeering activity”.

The state alleges that all the accused associated with one another and with other people for the purposes of making money through illegal drug dealing, and as such their association constituted an “enterprise”.

Chetty was the alleged leader or manager of the enterprise, functioning as the primary decision-maker and planner, with the others taking orders.

Komane, however, was not an employee of the enterprise, according to the charge sheet, nor did she take orders from Chetty, but is described as a “close associate” of the enterprise and the main supplier of illegal drugs, mainly cocaine.

Maharaj, Dlamini and Pillay are said to have all been drug dealers for the enterprise.

Maharaj was allegedly entrusted with the supervision of other drug dealers in Chetty’s absence and was responsible for delivering drugs to users and helped prepare and package drugs for resale.

Pillay was allegedly entrusted with the collection and purchase of “bulk” drugs from suppliers and their distribution to “favoured” customers.

The object of the enterprise was allegedly to obtain drugs in bulk, cut and package them for retail sale at a profit; to distribute drugs in exchange for money to the public and other dealers; to operate “drug dens” where the public could consume drugs; and to “plan, organise and co-ordinate the acquisition of funds” for its members, employees and associates.

The enterprise, with Chetty at the helm, allegedly operated from two premises at 19 and 21 Queen Street “some time during 1997”.

The illegal activities continued up to November 2005. During this period, Chetty, her family and drug runners allegedly sold mandrax and cocaine. Drugs were allegedly sold 24 hours a day and both premises had “smoke rooms” at the back where deals were concluded.

Chetty allegedly sourced drugs from major suppliers including Komane, negotiated the price and quantity of drugs and arranged their collection or delivery to Queen Street.

All the accused allegedly acted with common purpose to commit all the various offences.

The case is proceeding.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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