Soni’s new team point out presence of former lawyer in court

2017-08-15 13:40
Murder accused Rajivee Soni.

Murder accused Rajivee Soni. (File)

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The presence of murder accused Rajivee Soni’s ex-attorney in the public gallery at the high court on Monday was apparently not welcomed by his new legal team.

Advocate Christo van Schalkwyk, SC, who is now appearing for Soni along with Advocate Jimmy Howse — both instructed by local attorney A.K. Ayoob — told Judge Jacqueline Henriques and her assessor that he was instructed to place on record that Soni’s former attorney, Naren Sangham, was seated in the public gallery “next to the investigating officer” both before and after yesterday’s tea adjournment.

Sangham was fired by Soni at the end of last year and replaced with a new legal team.

Van Schalkwyk said much of Soni’s cross examination by state advocate Johan du Toit involved questions arising from what was put by Sangham to the state witnesses who testified in the trial.

“Because he [Soni] is under cross examination we have not discussed the matter with him,” said Van Schalkwyk. “I simply want it recorded at this stage and I will follow up on the matter,” he said.

Under cross examination on Monday Soni was asked questions relating to his relationship with senior Pietermaritzburg police officers, Captain Pipes Haffajee (formerly attached to the Serious and Violent Crimes Unit) and Brigadier Francis Bantham, as well as Captain Chantal Norman (wife of key state witness and ex-Mountain Rise policeman, Sugen Naidoo).

Du Toit suggested to him that in his evidence Soni appeared to have “expanded” the closeness of his friendship with Norman “far beyond” what was put to state witnesses.

Soni has disputed Sugen Naidoo’s version that the two of them were good friends and said his friendship was always with Naidoo’s wife, Chantal Norman.

He said he was introduced to Bantham by Norman and may have discussed with her (as well as with Haffajee) a “property deal” he was trying to close to get the SAPS to relocate the Family and Sexual Violence Unit (FCS) to one of his premises.

He said he got to know Haffajee following a robbery at his home in 2011. “I would not say we were very good friends,” said Soni when asked about their relationship.

Questioned about many calls made from his phone to Haffajee’s and vice versa, Soni said he spoke to Haffajee many times about the robbery case and possibly about the property deal.

In his evidence Soni has accused Sugen Naidoo of extorting large sums of money from him at various times under threat of having him arrested on false charges if he did not pay up.

Du Toit suggested to him that since he had the cellphone numbers of Bantham and Haffajee on his phone, he could have called them to report Sugen Naidoo’s alleged extortion.

Soni said after the protection order against him was lifted he did report Sugen Naidoo to Bantham, who said she had appointed a team to investigate various such allegations.

“Yet no charge was ever laid,” Du Toit remarked.

Du Toit also suggested to Soni that he has fabricated a version to explain his dealings with state witness Professor Sithebe, who testified that Soni offered to pay him R100 000 to kill Dr Bhavish Sewram.

This was denied by Soni.

Soni has testified that in fact Sithebe told him that Sewram had offered money to him to “sort out” Soni.

The case is proceeding.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  soni murder trial

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