Soni linked to drug trial

2015-10-21 09:17
Rajivee Soni at court.

Rajivee Soni at court. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - The advocate defending alleged local cocaine dealer Hoosen Shaik-Cassim suggested that his arrest on drug charges in February may have been linked to businessman Rajivee Soni’s murder trial.

However, Warrant Officer Mahendra Balmookand, of Mountain Rise, who was in charge of the undercover operation that led to the arrest of Shaik-Cassim and others on charges of dealing in cocaine, denied any knowledge of the Soni investigation.

“I have no dealings at all with that matter. This case is totally separate,” he told regional magistrate Rose Mogwera after advocate Shane Matthews asked if he was aware Shaik-Cassim was regarded as a “crucial witness for the state” in Soni’s murder trial.

Matthews said that “according to the grapevine, Shaik-Cassim was arrested because he was a witness against Soni”, to which Balmookand repeated that he knew nothing about the Soni trial.

The policeman added that even his commanding officer at the time, Brigadier Francis Bantham, “did not have knowledge about this undercover operation”, but conceded that Bantham had attended the scene during the February 27 raid on Shaik-Cassim’s home at 19 Mysore Road.

He said no drugs were found on the property, but added that “generally dealers don’t hide drugs at their houses”.

Shaik-Cassim and Sagren Pillay are charged with dealing in cocaine. Both pleaded not guilty.

Balmookand testified that the two men were linked to the offences through an undercover operation he launched in October 2014 with authority from the office of the KZN Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Because police had established during five months of surveillance that Shaik-Cassim did not deal directly with customers, it had been necessary for an agent to infiltrate his operation.

This involved the agent being introduced to Shaik-Cassim by a taxi driver referred to as “Vusi”, who allegedly brought customers to him and sold drugs on Shaik-Cassim’s behalf.

The defence has opposed the evidence obtained during the operation on grounds that it did not comply with the law. The grounds for opposing it include allegations that the police failed to comply with the directive issued by the DPP and “used trickery and deceit”, and their conduct “involved the exploitation of human characteristics and the reward of sexual favours”.

The case is proceeding

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  murder  |  court  |  soni

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