Durban hotel manager never saw warrant, court hears

2013-12-11 21:25
(Nielen de Klerk, News24)

(Nielen de Klerk, News24)

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Durban - The manageress of a Durban hotel where human trafficking allegedly took place and girls as young as 12 worked as prostitutes did not see the warrant allowing police to search the hotel, the Durban Regional Court heard on Wednesday.

Down Town Lodge and Inn Town Lodge manageress Veena Budhram said during cross-examination that when police arrived to search the Inn Town Lodge she was not shown the warrant.

The court is currently hearing a trial within-a-trial to determine the validity of a search warrant issued for the Inn Town Lodge, in Durban's Point area.

Dr Genchen Rugnath, the owner of both hotels, his wife Ravina, and Sandile Patrick Zweni, Nonduzo Dlamini, and Bhabha Dubazini have pleaded not guilty to 156 charges, including assault, rape, sexual exploitation of a child, and racketeering.

Budhram told the court she called Rugnath on 16 February, the day the organised crime unit arrived at the Inn Town Lodge, to get permission to allow the police access.

"I told the doctor the organised crime unit want to search the place. He told me they can search the place," she said.

When she arrived at the Inn Town Lodge, the hotel was swarming with police officers.

"I found one of the officers escorting a girl out. One was holding my arm asking who I am."

Budhram said she was not aware that the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Cyril Freese, did not need permission from her or the owners to execute a valid search warrant.

Budhram was arrested that day and was kept in custody until 24 February, when charges against her were withdrawn. She has since turned State witness.

"To me, I felt why must I be charged when I am merely taking instructions," she replied, when asked about her decision to become a State witness.

The trial continues.

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