Soni to stay at home

2015-12-21 13:36
An earlier photograph of Rajivee Soni taken during his trial in the high court.

An earlier photograph of Rajivee Soni taken during his trial in the high court. (File)

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Pietermaritzburg - Murder accused Rajivee Soni made a last minute bid on Friday for the return of his passport before his trial was adjourned until next year.

Just moments before Judge Jacqueline Henriques (sitting with assessor Gerhard Barnard) adjourned the case until January 22, Soni’s lawyer, Naren Sangham said Soni had instructed him to apply for his passport to be returned for a limited period of time so he could travel to Mozambique.

“He [Soni] is doing business with people in Mozambique and he needs his passport so that he can interact with these people … He only needs it for a week and then he can return it to the investigating officer,” said Sangham. He said Soni required the passport on January 15 next year.

Asked by the judge if state advocate, Johan du Toit knew about the application, Sangham said he had “discussed” it with him at some stage but “like always” his reaction was to say no.

“I submit that you, My Lady, are in the best position to decide the matter,” Sangham said to the judge.

Du Toit told the court it was his opinion that if Soni’s business partners needed to interact with him they “can come to him”.

“When the passport was discussed with me I was asked about Turkey … now it’s Mozambique. What is the next request going to be?” he asked.

Judge Henriques asked the advocates to see her in chambers to discuss possible dates when she could consider a formal application, but when the case resumed again, Sangham said Soni had meanwhile decided to withdraw his request.

In September last year when the start of his trial was still pending, Soni also applied before Judge Mohini Moodley for the return of his passport.

On that occasion he said he needed his passport back because his family took a vow eight years ago, after his father’s death, to travel to India to perform a religious ceremony before the end of last year.

Judge Moodley refused to grant the application as Soni had not previously brought the matter up at his original bail application when he indicated he would not travel anywhere.

She found it was possible that he wasn’t entirely truthful about his reasons for travelling abroad.

Soni is on bail of R100 000.

The businessman’s trial for the murder of Pietermaritzburg doctor, Bhavish Sewram, allegedly because he suspected the doctor of having an affair with his wife, started in May this year.

Judge Henriques will deliver her verdict on the admissibility of a video recording made by one of the state witnesses when the case resumes in Durban on January 22.

The defence has asked the court to exclude the video, which was allegedly recorded via cellphone by former security company manager, Professor Sithebe. Their objection is based on submissions the originality and authenticity of the video has not been proved.

Sangham submitted in argument on Friday that Sithebe was a “totally untruthful and unreliable witness” concerning the video, and his version could not be accepted.

While the defence accepted he took the cellphone video, they dispute it was taken on February 20, 2013, and allege the date which appears on the recording was tampered with.

Sangham argued that the recording did not accord with Sithebe’s original evidence that he made the video at a time when Soni drove him to “point out” the doctor’s surgeries and the times the doctor left work. Sangham suggested there had been “collusion” between Sithebe and other state witnesses, including the investigating officer, Yoga Naidoo, and a member of the police cyber crimes unit.

He said Naidoo failed to observe the “chain of custody” after he seized the pawned cellphone from Cash Crusaders and committed a “no, no” by handing the phone to Sithebe to switch on and show him the video.

Du Toit said on behalf of the state that Soni chose not to testify himself and there was nothing on record to gainsay Sithebe’s version.

He said Sithebe had no reason to tamper with the video, and there was also no reason for the court to reject his evidence that he made it in order to prove his interaction with Soni who, he claims, offered him R100 000 to kill Sewram. Du Toit said the “conspiracy theory” raised by the defence was not logical.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  murder  |  court  |  trial  |  soni

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