Tough bail terms for clone card suspects

2011-01-07 00:00

A PIETERMARITZBURG magistrate has granted bail to two of three men facing fraud and related charges linked to their alleged use and possession of cloned bank cards.

Mthobisi Collin Kubheka (21) and Siyabonga Mhlongo (22) were granted bail of R5 000 each on strict conditions, including house arrest and a provision that they have to report to police twice daily.

They were warned by magistrate Divesh Mootheram that they may not leave their houses without the permission of the investigating officer, except to go to work.

A third accused, Kenneth Phoswa (23), withdrew his bail application previously after it emerged he has other pending cases against him.

The case has been postponed to February 25. In his judgment Mootheram said that although the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Alistair Farrington, claimed in his testimony that the accused were operating as part of a syndicate, at this point there was insufficient evidence before court to make such a finding.

Farrington also testified that he believed the accused would be a flight risk if granted bail for various reasons. To counter the allegations, the accused handed in affidavits detailing their personal circumstances and undertaking to stand trial. They indicated that they intend to plead not guilty.

In total the accused face 36 counts, including fraud and contravening the Regulation of Interception of Communication Act (Rica) and the Electronic Transactions Act. Mootheram said it is obvious that the case is “extremely technical” and that it will take a long time to be finalised. This will entail the accused being kept in custody for a very long time awaiting the outcome. Neither Kubheka or Mhlongo have previous convictions or pending cases.

Only if they are found to belong to a syndicate would they face a mandatory prison sentence, but at this stage that is only an allegation, he said.

The three were arrested last year after they allegedly tried to use a cloned bank card and false ID document to buy a motorcycle worth R70 000 and a jacket from Ekerold Yamaha in the city.

The police subsequently recovered several allegedly “cloned” bank cards in the possession of the accused, along with three allegedly false identity documents.

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