Drugs: from 100 years to scot-free

2009-06-10 00:00

PRETORIA — From 100 years to scot-free

That is the story of Claude Djadji, a Congolese citizen, who in 2005 received the heaviest sentence in South Africa’s history in the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court for drug trafficking.

Magistrate Annemarie van der Merwe found him guilty on four charges of drug trafficking. After public prosecutor Kees Gouws led evidence of severely aggravating circumstances relating to the magnitude of the drug business in Nelspruit, Van der Merwe sent Djadji to jail for 25 years on each count.

She did, however, order that three of those sentences should run concurrently, which meant that Djadji would have had to spend 50 years in prison.

Because of the length of the sentence, the case had to be submitted to the high court in Pretoria for ratification (or otherwise) by a judge of that court.

Gerrie Prinsloo, chief registrar of the high court, yesterday confirmed that Djadi’s case was taken under review by not one, but a full bench of three judges.

Judges E. Bertelsmann, D. Basson and H. Mahafala unaninously set aside both the guilty verdicts on all four charges and consequently also the sentences.

The reasons for their decision have not been made known.

A spokesperson for the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court has confirmed that the judges’ order was received and that Djadji has already been released from prison. “He is now free to come and go as he wishes.”

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