Sewram case: R33?mln twist

2014-03-04 00:00

THE possibility that medical doctor Bhavish Sewram might have been murdered for life insurance policies worth R33 million was raised in the Pietermaritzburg high court yesterday.

The allegation raised the ire of Sewram’s widow, Yuvadia who later hit back via her lawyer, Siva Chetty.

Chetty said the “obvious innuendo” created in open court by the “scandalous and untrue allegations” was that Yuvadia Sewram, being the surviving spouse, was behind the murder of her late husband and father of their children.

“We reject the allegations, which we know emanate from within the family, as being scandalous and defamatory and completely untrue and we reserve our right to sue those responsible for defamation in future,” he said.

High court judge Isaac Madondo earlier agreed to postpone the trial of the four men charged for Sewram’s murder for two weeks so that accused businessman Rajivee Soni’s defence team can investigate whether or not the policies exist.

Although state advocate Sandesh Sankar dismissed the defence application as “delaying tactics” and said the state was satisfied the rumoured policies don’t exist and are a “figment of someone’s imagination”, the judge ruled that if he didn’t give the defence a chance to investigate, Soni might claim that he didn’t have a fair trial.

“Even if there is someone else out there who wanted to kill the deceased [Sewram], the state’s case is that it was the four accused before court who committed the murder,” Sankar told the court.

On trial for gunning down Sewram as he left his surgery on May 13 last year are Soni (30), former policeman Brian Treasurer (52), Sabelo Advocate Dlamini (24) and Mfaniseni Wiseman Nxumalo (34).

The state alleges that Soni ordered a “hit” on Sewram’s life over his suspected affair with Soni’s wife, and that the killing was orchestrated by his three co-accused.

The indictment alleges that Soni first embarked on a “revenge campaign” to drive the doctor out of town and when that failed, he had him killed.

Soni’s lawyer, Naren Sangham told Judge Madondo yesterday that “without alleging impropriety on any particular person’s part” the very existence of the alleged life insurance policies worth R33 million “could provide a further motive” for the doctor’s murder and it was essential for the defence to investigate it. He said he received information a week ago that Sewram’s life was insured for a total sum of R33 million, and further that a trust was created with First National Bank of which Sewram’s wife, Yuvadia, and her father were trustees.

“I am unsure who the [alleged] beneficiaries are. I am instructed that the policies were taken over the deceased [Sewram’s] life within a year or 18 months of his death,” he added.

Sangham said he’s been instructed (by Soni) to appoint a forensic investigator to establish if the policies do in fact exist.

He also said he wrote to Sankar on February 26 giving him the name of an insurance broker who allegedly “brokered” the policies, as well as the bank where the trust was established.

Sankar said in reply that he became aware of “rumours and speculation” about life insurance policies over Sew­ram’s life soon after the doctor was killed and he immediately tasked police to investigate. “My investigator came back and said he could not find any evidence of these policies,” he said.

The trial of the four accused, which was set down to start yesterday and to run for three weeks, has now been adjourned to March 17.

On that day the judge is expected to rule on another application by Sangham for Judge Madondo’s recusal from the case.

Sangham said the reason was that Madondo had presided over a civil case in 2012 between Soni and his wife in which he’d made credibility findings.

Sangham said while he didn’t doubt Madondo’s impartiality, even the “slightest perception” of possible bias on his part meant it would not be in the interests of justice for him to preside over the case.

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