Re-trial for Thai couple

2012-06-27 00:00

A THAI couple — who were the first people in South Africa to be convicted of racketeering for running a brothel in the Durban area — have been granted a re-trial by judges of review sitting in the Pietermaritzburg high court.

Judge Esther Steyn with Judge Phillip Nkosi found in a reserved judgment this week that irregularities in the Durban regional court trial of the couple — Basheer Sayed and Somcharee Chulchumphorn — had resulted in an unfair trial.

The high court ordered therefore that the proceedings be set aside and the case be tried afresh by a new regional court magistrate.

The couple brought an application in the high court last month for a review of their part-heard trial following their convictions on various counts under the Organised Crime Act, Sexual Offences Act and the Immigration Act.

They complained among other things that the Thai interpreter used in the case was not properly sworn in by the court.

Also that no inquiry was conducted into her competency, that she was not fluent in English, and was also used to interpret consultations between the prosecution and state witnesses in the case.

At the end of a long trial, the regional court had convicted the couple of managing an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activities relating to foreign women being used as prostitutes.

The court also found that the couple was living off the earnings of prostitution.

In the review judgment handed down this week, Steyn said the court record did not show that any inquiry was in fact conducted into the interpreter’s competency, nor that the interpreter was properly sworn in, and ruled that the high court could not therefore accept that the prescribed procedures had been followed.

Steyn said: “In my view the irregularities complained of are real and are not speculative or premature.”

It is unclear whether or not the state will in fact be in a position to try the couple again as state appointed advocate, Thulani Khuzwayo, said during the review application that all the state witnesses have already returned to Thailand.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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