Acquitted, but loses assets

2013-08-29 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG businesswoman Joyce Komane yesterday lost her bid to win back five properties and an Audi motor car seized by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) in 2008 as the alleged proceeds of drug trafficking by her.

Judge Rishi Seegobin said in a reserved judgment yesterday that he was satisfied the probabilities were that Komane was “engaged in drug dealing activities from about the mid 1990s to about 2005”.

He ordered that the five properties in Carey Road, Pelham; two flats in Pitlochry complex, 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.

In terms of the order, the assets may be disposed of by public auction, and after legitimate deductions, the balance of the proceeds may be paid into the Criminal Assets Recovery Account.

Sounding shaken and disappointed on being told telephonically about the outcome of the case, Komane told The Witness that she “will have to appeal” the ruling by Judge Seegobin.

Komane said the estimated value of her properties — all of which are rented out — together with the vehicle, runs into millions of rands.

She had hoped to win back her assets after succeeding in her appeal against her convictions for racketeering, drug dealing, money laundering and forgery in September 2010.

Despite her acquittal on appeal, however, the state opposed the application on grounds that there was strong evidence that Komane was the “kingpin” of a drug dealing syndicate who “supplied and distributed large quantities of drugs to a network of several drug dealers” in Pietermaritzburg over an extended period of time.

Witnesses called on behalf of the National Director of Public Prosecutions (and the AFU) maintained that Komane could not have paid for the properties with legitimate income earned from her businesses, including a coffee shop and boutique, and the proceeds of the sale of a garage in Greytown that was jointly owned by her and her late husband. The court agreed.

Evaluating Komane’s evidence, Judge Seegobin said he considered Komane to be a “wily witness with an extremely domineering and manipulative personality”.

The judge said she came across when testifying as a “confident, intelligent and articulate individual with an uncanny ability of wriggling herself out of uncomfortable situations”.

He also said Komane had displayed a “contemptuous attitude” towards investigators whom she blamed for all her woes during “occasional outbursts” by her while testifying.

Judge Seegobin believed Komane (and her associates in the case) had believed that if they sat back and did nothing the state would not be able to prove a case against them.

He said in his view they had failed dismally to produce evidence rebutting the strong case against them.

The legal test for a criminal conviction is different to that applied in civil law.

One of the affected properties, in Huntley Road, Bisley, is occupied by Komane’s mother, Gladys Makhaye, who claimed ownership.

The court, however, accepted the evidence of the former owner, Juliana Pole, who said all her dealings relating to the sale of the house were with Komane.

Judge Seegobin said the poor quality of the evidence given by Makhaye led him to conclude she had had nothing to do with the purchase of the house and she was used by Komane to create the impression she was the owner.

He also accepted that Komane was actually the owner of the house at Marion Road, Northdale, which was registered in the name of Sikhumbuzo Mbatha.

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