Search of Badul’s property was illegal

2013-06-04 00:00

POLICE searches of the home and farm of former Mountain Rise station commander, Hariram Badul in 2009, were illegal, a high court judge ruled yesterday.

The finding by Judge Rashid Vahed has dealt a blow to the prosecution in the case in which Badul and his four co-accused, Suresh Naraindath, Yunus Khan, Bhekuyise Nkabini and Sigamoney Pillay are charged with abusing state property and resources for their own benefit.

The accused have pleaded not guilty to racketeering, fraud, theft, corruption and money laundering.

Judge Vahed yesterday said he would give reasons at the end of the case for ruling that the searches and seizure of goods at Badul’s home at Coronet Place, Mountain Rise, and KwaiPhoyisa farm in Bishopstowe on December 4, 2009, are unlawful.

He declared all evidence obtained during the searches as inadmissible in the trial.

Badul’s advocate, Christo van Schalkwyk, SC, submitted in earlier arguments that the search warrants obtained by the police ahead of the search and seizure operation were constitutionally defective because they had been authorised by a judge and not by a magistrate or justice of the peace as is required by the Criminal Procedure Act.

State advocate Wendy Greef conceded that this was the case, but submitted that the court nonetheless still had a discretion to allow the evidence obtained during the searches if it did not render the trial unfair, and if it would serve the interests of justice.

She said in written arguments that the reason Judge Isaac Madondo had been approached by the investigators to issue the warrants was because they had believed “perhaps erroneously” that the matter involved multiple magisterial jurisdictions.

They were also afraid that if the warrants were applied for in the lower courts, there “could have been a leak of information” which could have tipped off the accused to thwart the searches, she said.

She argued the police had acted in good faith and suggested that the evidence should be allowed in the public interest. Greef said the public had an interest in seeing that people who commit crimes — especially senior police officers — were brought to justice.

Van Schalkwyk submitted that apart from the fact that Judge Madondo was not authorised to issue the warrants, the terms of the warrants were also “startlingly wide” and “vague”.

They did not specify which police officers were permitted to carry out the searches. He argued that the illegal searches were an invasion of Badul’s constitutional right to privacy. The court yesterday granted the state and defence teams time to discuss the implications of the ruling.

It also emerged yesterday that one of the accused, Sigamoney Pillay, suffers from a chronic medical condition for which he needs regular treatment which could cause delays in the trial.

The case is proceeding.

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