Cwele could walk without having to testify

2011-03-09 00:00

DRUG trafficking accused Sheryl Cwele could be acquitted without being required to enter the witness box to defend herself if her defence advocate succeeds in an application for her discharge that is due to be argued in the high court in Ramsgate today.

Advocate Mvuseni Ngubane told Judge Piet Koen and his assessor, Gerhard Barnard, that he will bring the application following the closure of the state’s case against Cwele and co-accused Frank Nabolisa by State advocate Ian Cooke yesterday.

The grounds for the application will only become apparent today. Cooke said the state will oppose the application.

Cwele and Nabolisa face charges of dealing in more than 10 kilograms of cocaine, which was found in the luggage of South Coast drug mule Tessa Beetge at Sao Paulo airport in Brazil on June 13, 2008.

They are also charged with having incited both Beetge and South Coast beautician Charmaine Moss to deal in drugs.

Meanwhile, Judge Koen yesterday refused to grant members of the media permission to view a transcript of intercepted cellphone calls and SMSes between Nabolisa, Cwele, Beetge and other people around the time that Beetge was allegedly recruited to traffic drugs from Columbia via Brazil, where she was arrested.

The transcript of the calls, legally intercepted by police monitoring Nabolisa’s activities, are before court and have been ruled “legally admissible” as evidence, but the defence has not admitted their accuracy or the contents.

The state had indicated previously that the calls are crucial in establishing the link between the two accused and Beetge and the discovery of the cocaine in Beetge’s luggage.

The judge indicated that the weight to be attached to the contents of the documents has still to be determined by the court when it gives judgment.

Nabolisa’s defence advocate, Koos van Vuuren SC, yesterday extensively cross-examined Lieutenant-Colonel Daniel Coertzen of crime intelligence, who was involved in monitoring Nabolisa’s calls. He highlighted various apparent discrepancies and inaccuracies appearing in the transcript, which runs to more than 200 pages.

The trial of Cwele — the wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele — and Nabolisa has attracted international attention.

The alleged role played by Cwele, who is an employee of the Hibiscus Coast Municipality, was highlighted in evidence earlier in the trial by Beetge’s mother, Marie Swanepoel.

Swanepoel testified that her daughter was excited to be setting off on her first overseas trip (supposedly to London), organised by Cwele. She said she and her husband met Cwele at her office at the municipality and she assured them they had nothing to worry about.

Cwele allegedly said Beetge’s flights would be paid for, she’d be housed in a top hotel in London, provided with clothing and would earn £1 000 (about R11 400) “doing admin work”.

Swanepoel said that following Beetge’s arrest she called Cwele, who said they should await a call from the Brazilian embassy, but they heard nothing.

Swanepoel said that later Cwele denied knowing Beetge had been in Peru or Columbia.

Cross-examining Swanepoel at the time, Cwele’s advocate put it to her that Cwele and Beetge hatched a plan to deceive Swanepoel into believing Tessa was going to work in London, knowing that Swanepoel would not have approved of her daughter working for Nabolisa in Johannesburg where Cwele had helped her to find work.

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