ARMED guards surrounded the high court in Durban when 28 members of the Cato Manor Organised Crime Unit (OCU), nicknamed the “Death Squad”, appeared yesterday. The policemen face over 70 charges of racketeering, murder and attempted murder. Police officers wearing berets and dark glasses stood at the corners of the courtyard, the entrance to the court and inside the court itself with high calibre rifles, while plain-clothed policeman sat among the gallery. However the accused, all on suspension with full pay including benefits, will have to wait at least another seven months, until June 23, 2014, before a trial date is set. In that time, they are to secure private legal assistance and for their challenge to the racketeering charge to be finalised. Sello Maema, a prosecutor brought down from the South Gauteng High Court who is heading the prosecution team, said: “They [the accused] are challenging the racketeering charge which will sit in February 2014. The police have also had their request for legal aid or the SAPS to pay their bills turned down and will therefore be required to fund their defence on their own,” said Maema. According to Cato Manor OCU members, they expect their legal bills to soar to an estimated R40 million. All the accused are currently paying a monthly premium used towards their legal fees. The unit has suspected links to more than two dozen extra-judicial killings between May 2008 and September 2011 by the Organised Crime Unit. They are accused of operating a death squad. They allegedly operated as an enterprise under KZN Hawks boss Major-General Johan Booysen’s command. They allegedly obtained financial benefit from associations, businesses and individuals in conflict with the people the officers are accused of killing. The NPA will set out to prove that Booysen used his position to run the enterprise with ruthless and deadly efficiency. Judge Ester Steyn said: “Providing the racketeering charges are sorted out as well as legal representation, the matter should be able to proceed.” She extended the bail for all the accused.