Scorpions raid city socialite

2008-06-10 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG socialite and alleged drug queen Joyce Komane — co-accused of alleged drug dealer Ramjini Chetty — was rudely awakened yesterday morning when she was served with court papers ordering the forfeiture of her fixed and moveable assets, worth an estimated R5 million.

Komane, who faces 36 charges, including dealing in drugs, opened the kitchen door of her house in Huntley Road, Bisley, to a surprise visit from the deputy sheriff of the Pietermaritzburg High Court, Desmond Barnabas, who read her the court order.

Barnabas told Komane that all her properties and certain movable assets had been forfeited until the outcome of her criminal case in the Pietermaritzburg regional court.

The court ordered that she be left only with basic assets, including one of the houses. But she was warned against removing or selling anything left in her possession.

Barnabas was accompanied by about 20 members of the National Prosecuting Authority, Directorate of Special Operations and the Organised Crime Unit, as well as a contingent of journalists. As she opened the door, cameras flashed in her face.

The investigators gathered at the 24-hour Spar in Hayfields at about 7 am before the convoy of about 10 vehicles moved to the suspect’s home.

Komane (47), who had earlier looked shocked by the unannounced visit, told the media that the presence of the Scorpions was no surprise to her.

“I’m not surprised by this visit. I have been waiting for them to come, because they did the same to my friend [Chetty], who is also my co-accused,” said Komane, who was still in her orange dressing gown and slippers.

As the officers forced their way into her large house, she was heard asking for permission to call her lawyer.

During one of a number of cellphone conversations, she was overheard explaining to someone about the forfeiture removal.

“The Scorpions are here, taking everything I own. But don’t worry, as soon as I win all my cases, I will get everything back,” said Komane.

Inside the house, a pistol with its serial numbers scratched off was found and confiscated.

Also found was a safe, which Komane could not open with a digital code. A locksmith had to be called to open it. Inside the safe, there were a number of items of jewellery, account cards, a skin strap worn around the wrist for traditional purposes and incense.

The law enforcement agencies, who had arrived in the area with a convoy of vehicles, including one with the Scorpion emblem, also visited a house in Carey Road in the same suburb, also believed to be belong to Komane.

Komane denied to the media that she owns any property around the city saying that the Huntley Road house belongs to her parents, who bought it, and the other belongs to her sister. She admitted to owning a house in Pelham.

It is also believed that she owns another house in Northdale and two flats in the city centre, some of which she apparently rents out.

Among the moveable property seized were seven vehicles, all of which appeared to be in a broken-down state, except for a Corsa 1.8 bakkie and a VW Jetta.

Komane is also charged with racketeering, money laundering and fraud. All charges relate to crimes alleged to have happened between 1996 and 2005. She stands accused with Chetty, Surychand Maharaj, Bongi Dlamini, and Jessendren Pillay.

Their case was postponed in May to September 29 at the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court.

Four of the five accused are out on bail, including Komane, pending the finalisation of the trial.

Confirming yesterday’s seizure of Komane’s assets, National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Tlali Tlali said that the National Assets Forfeiture Unit followed section 38 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca) of 1998.

Poca allows for assets to be seized where an investigation has established that those who acquired assets do not have a legitimate source of income to justify or account for such acquisitions.

bhans@witness.co.za

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