Drug lab bust stuns landlord

2013-12-03 00:00

THE owner of a plush Gillitts home called police in a panic yesterday — after learning it had been turned into KwaZulu-Natal’s biggest-ever drug lab.

Accountant Garron Stewart told The Witness he had been renting his five-bedroom home to the same tenant — “the owner of two night clubs and a business building RDP houses” — for the past three years, and gave him an ultimatum to “stop stalling” and buy the property only a week earlier. Stewart (44) — who now lives with his family in Cape Town — provided The Witness with the name of his tenant and said he’d given the man’s details to police.

On Saturday, a team involving national SAPS Crime Intelligence and the Hawks raided the house at 50 Alexander Drive, and recovered R41 million worth of narcotics and sophisticated drug processing equipment.

Nineteen men were arrested at the house, and appeared at Pinetown Magistrate’s Court yesterday on charges of possession and dealing in narcotics. All of the suspects are foreign nationals, between the ages of 18 and 37; some of them asylum seekers from Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

The court was cleared and journalists were also not allowed to sit in for the proceedings because the accused’s attorney, Roshan Samir, said two of the accused were juveniles.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale said the lab was the hub of a major syndicate, and that he expected the “kingpin” to be arrested this week.

Stewart said he had been trying to sell the house for a year, and a walk-through by an estate agent earlier this year had revealed nothing out of place — “except cupboards in the kitchen were broken, and green mould had grown on the outer walls”. He said, “He was the perfect tenant, he never missed a rent payment, except that, recently, I could never get access to the property.”

Yesterday, Stewart described the “nightmare” of finding his house had been transformed into an elaborate drugs factory — and seeing images of organised crime in rooms where his children once slept.

“It was a complete shock,” he said. “A neighbour who watches the house for me called to tell me police had been at the house and to look in the media.

“My wife freaked out. She had chosen the house as a great place for us to live. We left in 2009 when I got a job in Cape Town.”

Stewart added: “I’m worried at how I’m going to pay my bond next month — the place is being used for evidence now.”

The matter was postponed for a bail application on December 17.

• rowan.philp@witness.co.za

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