Drug-dealing accused Cwele will hear her fate in a few weeks’ time

2011-03-14 07:04

The fate of drug-trafficking accused Sheryl Cwele, the wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, will be known in about a month’s time.

The decision by Cwele and her Nigerian national co-accused Frank Nabolisa on Wednesday not to testify in their defence means the case will be wound up earlier than had been anticipated.

Cwele took the decision not to testify after her application to have charges against her quashed was rejected by the Ramsgate High Court.

Cwele’s advocate, Mvuseni Ngubane, applied for the charges to be dismissed, arguing that the state had failed to provide evidence that linked her to the crime.

Ngubane said the fact that Cwele used her own work landline when she communicated with Nabolisa and drug mule Tessa Beetge meant that she was innocent.

Cwele and Nabolisa have pleaded not guilty to charges of dealing in or conspiring to deal in drugs; recruiting Charmaine Moss to collect drugs in Turkey; and recruiting Beetge to smuggle cocaine from South America.

Beetge was arrested when 10kg of cocaine was found in her luggage in Brazil in 2008 and she is serving a jail sentence in Sao Paulo.

Moss has turned state witness.

The state has presented about 10 witnesses since the beginning of the trial in Pietermaritzburg last year.

The defence teams have not called any witnesses and Nabolisa and Cwele’s version of events will now not be tested before court.

Nabolisa’s counsel, Koos van Vuuren, has attempted to prove that the interception of SMS messages and calls by the police was illegal.

Ngubane has since the beginning of the case stated that his client did not deny knowing Nabolisa, Moss and Beetge.

He said she had known Nabolisa as a businessman who needed white people to work for his firm in South Africa and abroad.

Moss and Beetge had been introduced to Nabolisa by Cwele.

There was a jovial mood among Cwele’s relatives on Monday and Tuesday in the Ramsgate High Court as the defence teams presented arguments about the authenticity of the intercepted calls.

They picked up a number of typing errors in the transcripts of the intercepted calls.

The happy mood, however, changed when Judge Piet Koen rejected the application for Cwele’s acquittal.

During argument about the authenticity of the intercepted calls, Koen questioned why state prosecutor Ian Cooke did not bring to court people who had been involved in the tapping of phones.

This was after Ngubane and Van Vuuren raised concerns about the errors.

They also complained about the fact that police officers from Crime Intelligence were unable to answer some technical questions on how the calls were intercepted.

They argued that it was possible the calls could have been interfered with.

Arguing why Cwele should not be acquitted, Cooke read a series of emails and text messages which he said proved that Cwele was part of arranging for Beetge to collect drugs.

One of the messages stated that Beetge would be photographed before she went to the airport and she should not collect her luggage when she arrived at OR Tambo Airport.

Koen said he hoped to hand down judgment before the end of the court session, which is in about six weeks’ time.

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