Brazilian officials to testify

2010-10-16 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG will next week host three Brazilian officials due to testify in the drug trafficking trial of Sheryl Cwele (49) and Frank Nabolisa (41).

The officials are to describe the arrest of alleged drug mule, Tessa Beetge (33), at Sao Paulo airport, Brazil, on June 13, 2008, and confirm that the substance found in her possession was cocaine.

The court heard this week that the street value of the cocaine (between nine and 10 kg) would have been between R2 million and R5 million depending on the purity according to investigating officer Izak Ludick.

Ludick said drug dealers buy in bulk from countries where cocaine powder is produced, paying about $2 000 (R13 700) per kilogram. To maximise their profits the cocaine is resold in grams at between R200 and R500 per gram.

Costs of trafficking are high. For example, Beetge’s return flight to Columbia alone would have been R15 000. “Then there is her accommodation at a minimum of $100 [R690] per day, as well as spending money.”

Dealers also often pay corrupt airport officials to turn a blind eye to drugs entering or leaving countries.

The possibility of Beetge giving evidence from prison, possibly via video link, is being explored by the legal teams at the request of Judge Piet Koen, who believes her testimony could yield key answers such as how she ended up in Peru and Columbia, instead of London.

Cwele’s advocate, Mvuseni Ngubane, suggested to Beetge’s mother, Marie Swanepoel, that Beetge and Cwele deceived her by saying Beetge was going to London because she is a “strict” parent and would not have approved of Beetge seeking work in Johannesburg from Nabolisa, whom Cwele knew to be a “rich man” who needed girls to sell his products.

Swanepoel said from SMS messages and e-mails between her daughter and Cwele it was obvious Cwele knew Beetge was in Peru.

In one e-mail Cwele provided Beetge with details of her flight due to depart from Lima Airport to “Sao Palo” on June 5, 2008.

In another message from Beetge to Cwele, Beetge refers to freezing her “butt off in Peru with Frank that is telling me to wait and wait and wait and then when its time to go I am ready and they cancel everything again”.

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