World eyes on Cwele case

2010-10-09 00:00

INTERNATIONAL focus will be on Pietermaritzburg on Monday when a cabinet minister’s wife, Sheryl Cwele (49), and alleged Nigerian drug lord Frank Nabolisa (42) are due to stand trial on charges of international cocaine smuggling.

Cwele, wife of national State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, is on R100 000 bail, while Nabolisa was refused bail in February on grounds he is a flight risk.

The court heard evidence at the bail hearing that Nabolisa — described by Cwele as a “friend” in her affidavit — has on various occasions “surreptitiously” entered and left South African shores while on the run from police, had false travel documents, and owes the SA Revenue Service millions in undeclared taxes.

Allegations first surfaced in March last year about Cwele’s connection with South Coast woman Tessa Beetge (31), who is in a Brazilian jail following her arrest at Sao Paulo International Airport on June 13, 2008, in possession of 9,2 kg of cocaine in her baggage.

Her parents claimed that Beetge was offered a job overseas by Cwele, who was a former neighbour, but this was denied by Cwele.

The accused have been charged with three counts of dealing in 9,2 kg of cocaine and of inciting Beetge and another South Coast woman, Charmaine Moss, to deal in drugs during May and June 2008.

The state’s indictment alleges that some time prior to the offences, Cwele and Nabolisa conspired to import cocaine beyond the borders of SA by recruiting young women on the pretext of arranging short terms of employment for them overseas.

Their plan was to use them, when they returned to the country, to smuggle cocaine concealed in their luggage, it is alleged.

Moss and Beetge were both allegedly approached by Cwele on May 2, 2008, who offered to find them work in London. Travel arrangements were allegedly made by Nabolisa.

Moss — who had been due to fly to Turkey from Johannesburg — declined to get involved after she was allegedly “scolded” by Nabolisa for asking what she was going to do in Turkey and after Cwele allegedly told her she was going to bring back a parcel for Nabolisa.

Beetge was allegedly flown to Bogota, Colombia, at the accused’s instigation.

While she was en route back to Johannesburg from Bogota — via Sao Paulo — she was arrested with the cocaine in her luggage.

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