Christmas in jail for Soni

2018-12-13 16:14
Convicted murderer Rajivee Soni.

Convicted murderer Rajivee Soni.

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Jailed businessman Rajivee Soni wants another shot at being exonerated for killing Dr Bhavish Sewram in May 2013.

And while he waits to hear the final verdict, he also wants his freedom back.

Soni’s legal team on Wednesday launched an application for leave to appeal his convictions and lengthy jail sentences for having arranged to have Sewram shot dead in 2013 because he suspected the doctor of having an affair with his wife.

If the application succeeds, they have asked the court to grant Soni bail pending the outcome of his appeal.

However, any ambitions Soni might have had to be home for Christmas were dashed on Wednesday when arguments in the matter were not finalised and the case was once again postponed to next year.

Defence advocate Jimmy Howse spent the entire day in the Durban high court on Wednesday trying to sway Judge Jacqueline Henriques into granting Soni permission to appeal his convictions and effective 30-year sentence, to the Supreme Court of Appeal, and to grant Soni bail if the application is granted.

Although Soni was absent during the argument, his family members were present in full force.

Soni was convicted on six charges.

They are: murder, three of defeating the ends of justice — one where Soni laid a false charge of assault against the doctor and the other two of him getting two women to lay false sexual assault charges against the doctor, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm where Soni got two policemen to use paintball guns to shoot the doctor, and another charge of conspiracy to murder the doctor.

Howse said the state had proved that Soni conspired together with Sugen Naidoo, Brian Treasurer, Mfaniseni Nxumalo and Sabelo Dlamini to kill Sewram in May 2013.

However, Howse asked what evidence there was that links Soni to that and if it was sufficient to sustain a conviction. He said the court relied on two pillars of evidence — Naidoo’s evidence and cellphone evidence.

Naidoo’s evidence regarding the murder was “shockingly poor”, he argued.

Naidoo had testified about Treasurer telling him that Soni wanted to kill Sewram and wanted to pay him R80 000. Howse said there were many contradictions in his evidence, such as where these meetings took place.

Naidoo’s evidence also linked Soni to Treasurer, who was found guilty of the murder.

Howse said features of Naidoo’s evidence were not analysed by the court when giving judgment.

“In every material respect, Sugen contradicted himself regarding his meeting with Treasurer,” he said.

Of the other aspect, Howse said the court relied on the evidence of the gunman, Dlamini. He said that after the murder, Treasurer had phoned someone and Dlamini overheard him say “the job is done”.

“The problem is that he did not say what number Treasurer had dialled,” said Howse.

“To convict someone on the basis of a phone call is thin and we would ask another court to look at this.”

Besides, two calls were made minutes apart — one to Soni. There was no evidence whose phone was called when the words Dlamini overheard were uttered, said Howse.

He argued that in connection with the charges of defeating the ends of justice and assault, Naidoo was the only witness.

Howse criticised the state for not calling any of the other witnesses and suggested this was because they would have contradicted what Naidoo said.

The judge, however, intervened and asked why the defence did not call them since they were also available to the defence. “On what basis can the state be criticised?” she asked.

Howse maintained they ought to have been called by the state.

He argued that Naidoo was a “self-confessed pathological liar and an extortionist”.

“The finding by this court that Sugen was a good witness, honest, frank and forthright is not borne out by the record,” he said.

Arguments in the matter will now continue in March next year as the judge will not be available before then. However, the judge said if she is able to she will try to bring the matter forward.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  soni murder trial
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