NPA working to get Beetge to testify

2010-10-19 08:56

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is working around the clock to get the woman incarcerated in Brazil for drug smuggling to testify in the case of the wife of state the security minister.

“We are trying to get her (Tessa Beetge) to testify. We hope the process will not delay the completion of the trial,” NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said this morning.

Beetge was arrested with cocaine in Brazil in 2008, allegedly after she was “recruited” by Sheryl Cwele, wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele.

Cwele and Nigerian national Frank Nabolisa allegedly conspired to recruit Beetge and Charmaine Moss as drug mules. Moss turned down the offer when she suspected something was amiss.

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

Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Piet Koen last week said the evidence without Beetge’s testimony would be inconclusive, saying it seemed to him the KwaZulu-Natal south coast woman had answers.

The court felt Beetge should be subpoenaed to testify, either by video link, or at a hearing attended by South African court officials in Brazil.

Investigating officer Lieutenant-Colonel Johann Ludick took a statement from Beetge in Brazil last year, but it couldn’t be used because it was regarded as hearsay evidence.

The justice and constitutional development department said it was also willing to facilitate Beetge’s testimony.

“We should be able to look into the matter and facilitate it, should the court so decide on the matter. All practical and logistical factors will be taken into account for this to be realised,” said the department’s spokesperson Tlali Tlali.

Yesterday, Brazilian Federal Police agent Carlos de Bartole explained in court how Beetge was arrested at Sao Paulo International Airport. He said Beetge did not look surprised when drugs were found in her luggage.

The substance was wrapped in paper, he said. There were also four coffee bags and two packets of sweets inside the big bag, which was full of cocaine.

Carolina Passato Braga, a chemical expert with the Brazilian federal police, described how the substance found in Beetge’s luggage was tested.

Denison Maia, another Brazilian chemical expert, was expected to testify today.

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