'Human smuggler's' home seized
Johannesburg - A Mayfair house belonging to a member of an international human smuggling syndicate was seized by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) on Friday, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said.
The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg granted the AFU a preservation order against the property, valued at around R700 000, owned by Inayat Musa Patel and his wife Waheeda Patel.
NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said the order authorised the seizure pending the outcome of an application by the National Director of Public Prosecutions for the forfeiture of the property.
Mhaga said: "It is alleged that the house was used as a base for Patel's human smuggling operations and therefore an integral part of Patel's criminal activities.
"It is further alleged that the house was purchased with the proceeds of Patel's criminal activities."
Patel, who would appear on trial on July 26, was believed to be the South African head of the syndicate that assisted 200 Indian nationals to gain illegal entry into the United Kingdom through South Africa.
He allegedly obtained fraudulent South African documents for his "clients" with the assistance of corrupt home affairs officials and arranged for their passage to the UK.
Patel faced charges including racketeering, 200 counts of fraud and contraventions under the Immigration Act.
He was out on bail.
The forfeiture application was a result of joint investigations between local and UK authorities.
"This is the second time that the AFU has acted against Patel.
It seized an amount of R74 000, representing the proceeds of his illegal human smuggling activities, in 2007." said Mhaga.
He explained that human smuggling was different from human trafficking in that smuggling dealt with people who were willing participants, unlike trafficking where the victims were forced.
"The syndicate's large scale operation was one of the factors that had resulted in the United Kingdom withdrawing the visa exemption status previously enjoyed by South African citizens," he said.
"The purpose of these initiatives is to ensure that those involved in illegal human smuggling are dealt with effectively.
"It sends out a warning to all persons engaged in such activities that they will be effectively dealt with and not benefit from their crimes."