Soni trial: ‘cops frightened me’

2015-10-01 12:44
Rajivee Soni at court.

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

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Pietermaritzburg - The man who claims Rajivee Soni offered him R100 000 to kill Dr Bhavish Sewram fingered two top policemen as having threatened him.

It emerged that one is the head of the KZN presidential anti-corruption task team, Colonel C. Jones, and the other a member of his unit, identified only as Colonel Maistry.

Professor Mlungisi Sithebe testified that Jones and Maistry tried to force him to retract his statements in the case.

“What frightened me most was the question they asked me: would I die for my statement? I said yes, because it is true and correct,” Sithebe told Judge­ ­Jaqueline Henriques and assessor ­Gerhard Barnard.

Sithebe alleged the policemen carried a statement, and that on the back he saw a map depicting the area where he lives, including the road where he stays. He said he immediately reported to state ­advocate Johan du Toit what had ­happened and had “opened a case” against the policemen.

Soni’s lawyer, Naren Sangham, told Sithebe that Colonel Jones is head of the KZN anti-corruption task team, and Maistry a colonel in the unit. He said they were investigating a case where it is alleged that another state witness in the case, Daryl Gounder, had “elicited a bribe” from Soni.

“Are you aware of a sting operation conducted by Colonel Jones … against Daryl Gounder?” Sangham asked, to which Sithebe responded: “I know nothing about that … they just came to tell me that I am a criminal or a crook.”

He testified that Jones and Maistry stopped him at KFC and questioned him “for an hour about Soni”. He said he was aware there was CCTV footage of the meeting.

“They told me that the investigating officer is a crook and that he took R70 000 from Soni and that I should not listen to him. I should listen to them, and they urged me to change the ­statement I had made to Naidoo,” he said, referring to Soni trial investigator Warrant Officer Yoga Naidoo.

“Can I just stop there about Jones and Maistry because there is now a matter that is pending?” Sithebe asked the court.

Sangham said Colonel Jones’s unit was specially appointed by the president to investigate corruption amongst ­police officers and in government ­departments.

“He won’t deny that he interviewed you [Sithebe] … He will say the reason was as a result of an affidavit made by Warrant Officer Daryl Gounder in which you and other people were named … He [Jones] will say it became necessary for him to trace and interview you, and that investigation is ongoing,” said ­Sangham.

He said Jones will “deny any ­suggestion” that they told Sithebe to ­retract his statements.

He said Jones will also deny asking ­Sithebe if he would “die rather than stick to his statement”.

“He will say that in fact you said to him and Colonel Maistry that you were put under pressure to make these ­statements by the investigating officer and the investigating team.”

Asked by Judge Henriques who was the investigating officer he was referring to, Sangham said “Warrant Officer Yoga Naidoo”, but said he was not sure who was being referred to as the “team”.

Sithebe refused to continue ­answering questions concerning Jones and Maistry as the “case was pending”.

When it was suggested that Jones had called him and arranged to meet him he replied: “Oh, okay”.

Sangham told Sithebe that Jones will allege Sithebe telephoned him on his cellphone on about September 5 or 6 and asked for Soni’s number.

Jones referred him to Maistry.

“Maistry will say he cautioned you against speaking to Soni … He told you to contact Mr du Toit.”

“You [Sithebe] then told him that pressure had been brought to bear on you to make these statements and you did not want to become involved in this matter … He will say you informed him that the statements you made were ­untrue,” said Sangham as Sithebe shook his head.

Shortly before revealing the alleged threats against him yesterday, Sithebe became emotional and wiped tears from his face as he asked Soni why he had “done this” to him.

He said Soni’s suggestion to him that Dr Sewram had offered him R100 000 to “harm” Soni and not the other way around, was “lies cooked up by you guys”.

“Soni has harmed many families including me,” he said, becoming tearful.

Sithebe added that “Soni needs God” and said he would pray for him.

“I stand by my evidence that Soni wanted to pay me R100 000 to kill the doctor,” Sithebe repeatedly said, adding that no matter how the defence tried to discredit him, this would not change.

Sithebe has now finished testifying and a new witness will be called to the stand today

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  murder  |  court  |  soni

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