Man claims he was recruited by minister’s wife

2010-10-14 13:18

The boyfriend of a woman imprisoned for drug trafficking told the Pietermaritzburg High Court today that he was also recruited to “work” overseas by Sheryl Cwele, wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele.

“When she (Cwele) was arranging for Tessa Beetge to go overseas, she also asked if I was interested and I turned the offer down,” said Hendrik Claasen.
He was testifying on the fourth day of the drug trafficking trial of Cwele and Nigerian national, Frank Nabolisa.

Claasen was the boyfriend of Beetge, the KwaZulu-Natal woman imprisoned in Brazil for drug trafficking. His testimony took the defence team by surprise as his name was not on the witness list.

The state alleges that Cwele and Nabolisa conspired to recruit Beetge and Charmaine Moss as drug mules.

Beetge is currently serving an eight-year jail sentence in Sao Paulo, Brazil, after 10kg of raw cocaine was found in her luggage.

Moss told the high court on Monday that she turned down the job Cwele and Nabolisa had organised her after she began to suspect that there was something amiss.

Claasen told the high court that he and Beetge had visited Cwele’s office at the Hibiscus Coast municipality in Uvongo, KwaZulu-Natal, where final preparations for Beetge’s overseas trip were made.

Cwele had told them that Beetge would work in London. She would get free travel, free accommodation, free clothing and a £1 000 (about R11 000) per week. She would be in London for two weeks, Claasen said.

Cwele was arrested in January and Nabolisa in December last year.

They face three charges – dealing or conspiring to deal in drugs, procuring Moss to collect drugs in Turkey, and procuring Beetge to smuggle 10kg of cocaine from South America.

Cwele was granted R100 000 bail on February 5.

Nabolisa was denied bail because the court considered him a flight risk.

During cross-examination today, Cwele’s advocate Mvuseni Ngubane said his client was worried that she only became aware that Claasen was a witness yesterday, adding that there had been no mention of Claasen on the list of state witnesses.

The investigating officer had also not mentioned his name during the bail application, Ngubane said.

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