No trial yet for accused copper thief

2014-09-23 00:00

An investigation into a copper theft syndicate in KwaZulu-Natal spanned 18 months and involved analysing more than 1,5 million cellphone calls.

There are some 220 000 pages of documents relating to the charges against 26 alleged syndicate members.

This emerged yesterday when one alleged syndicate member, Lindenkosi Xulu, applied for bail based on new facts.

His advocate, Dalene Barnard, said Xulu has been in custody for two years and two months awaiting trial.

She said this is a violation of his constitutional right to a speedy trial.

Barnard said despite the delay the date for the trial has not even been set down yet.

A pre-trial conference is only due to be held in December this year, following which trial dates would be discussed.

Barnard said due to the number of accused and legal representatives involved, the state is looking at “years” to finalise the matter.

Of the 189 counts facing the accused, Xulu is only charged with two counts.

It was unfair that he should be kept in jail while the state built its case against all the other accused, and added racketeering charges to the list.

But Annelize Harrison, for the state, said the case is extremely complex and the crimes of which Xulu stands ­accused fit into the pattern of racketeering, money laundering and other charges arising from the activities of the syndicate. His actions could not be viewed in isolation.

She said he was arrested along with three other alleged syndicate members at Hilton where high voltage ­Eskom conductor cables were cut.

Harrison said copper theft impacts heavily on the public. It was difficult to put a monetary figure on the damage caused because of the “ripple effect”.

When electricity is cut off, businesses are affected, which in turn has a spin-off effect on jobs.

“Taxpayers are also affected. This is what makes this such a scary offence,” she told regional magistrate Reard Abrahams.

Judgment is expected on October 27.

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