Judges to rule on drug case appeal

2015-08-06 09:29


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PIETERMARITZBURG businesswoman Joyce Komane will wait with bated breath for the eventual outcome of her appeal to win back her assets that were seized seven years ago as the alleged proceeds of drug trafficking.

High court judges Shyam Gyanda, Graham Lopes and Acting Judge V. Naidoo yesterday reserved judgment in an application in which Komane, as well as her mother, Gladys Makhaye, sought to win back five properties and an Audi car that were seized by the Asset Forfeiture Unit in 2008.

Komane was arrested in 2005 and later faced trial, along with a woman known as Pietermaritzburg’s “drug queen”, Ramjini Chetty, and others for racketeering, dealing in cocaine, mandrax and other charges.

She was convicted of drug dealing, forgery and money laundering and sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment, but in 2010 she was acquitted of the same charges on appeal to the high court.

Despite this, in August 2013, Judge Rishi Seegobin ruled in civil proceedings brought by the AFU that he was satisfied that it was probable that Komane in fact had “engaged in drug dealing activities from about the mid-1990s to about 2005”.

He ordered that five properties in Carey Road in Pelham, two flats in Pitlochry complex in Commercial Road, a home in Marion Road, Northdale, a property in Huntley Road, Bisley, and an Audi 500 be forfeited to the state in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

The value of the properties is not revealed in court papers but Komane previously told The Witness they are worth “millions”.

In the civil case the AFU maintained that even though Komane was acquitted (allegedly on a technicality) of the criminal charges, there was strong evidence she was the “kingpin of a drug dealing syndicate”, and that she supplied and distributed large quantities of drugs to a network of several drug dealers in Pietermaritzburg for years.

Witnesses called on behalf of the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) maintained that Komane could not have paid for the properties with legitimate income earned from her businesses including a coffee shop and boutique.

The three appeal judges yesterday grilled Komane’s advocate, Fanie Slabbert, about why she had failed to produce any documentary proof such as bank statements, tax returns and financial statements to support her claim that her income was derived from legal sources and not drugs.

Slabbert pointed out in legal arguments that Komane has never been convicted under the Drugs Act, despite having been “extensively and intensively investigated” for years.

He said the authorities had made use of “draconian powers of investigation and every conceivable method of obtaining evidence”. These included using informers, traps, interrogations, offering drug runners indemnity to testify against her, undercover agents and surveillance.

“The lack of a single conviction demonstrates the inadequacy of the general conclusions, opinion and hearsay relied on,” he said.

Slabbert also submitted that the evidence showed Komane did “everything humanly possible” to rebut the evidence against her, and said it wasn’t clear what more was expected of her.

He maintained she was unable to provide bank statements relating to her boutique as her books went missing after her arrest.

He also argued that the onus was on the AFU to prove their claim that she made her living from drugs, and maintained they had failed to do so.

Advocate Mike Govindasamy SC, who appeared on behalf of the NDPP, focused on the evidence of witnesses who testified that Komane had supplied them with drugs, or that they had sold drugs on her behalf.

He submitted that evidence showed that any income she derived from legal activities was “completely inadequate” to pay for her assets, and that these must have been funded by her drug dealing activities.

He submitted she had failed to rebut the strong case made out by the state that her income was derived from drugs, and asked the appeal court to dismiss her appeal

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  court  |  drugs

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