Portuguese fugitive dies in KwaZulu-Natal prison ahead of court appearance

Portuguese fugitive Joao Manuel de Oliveira Rendeiro has died in custody in South Africa.
Portuguese fugitive Joao Manuel de Oliveira Rendeiro has died in custody in South Africa.
Photo: iStock
  • A Portuguese man who was wanted in his home country for tax evasion, died in custody in South Africa before he could appear in court.
  • The correctional services department said Joao Manuel de Oliveira Rendeiro, who was due in court on Friday, has died.
  • They did not reveal the circumstances of his death and said it was under investigation.

Portuguese fugitive Joao Manuel de Oliveira Rendeiro, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail in his home country for tax evasion and money laundering, died in Westville Prison in Durban shortly before he was meant to appear in court.

Details from the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) were scant, but it said it was investigating the circumstances of the man's death.

"The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) is able to confirm the unfortunate passing of Joao Manuel de Oliveira Rendeiro who was remanded at Durban Westville Correctional Centre.

"The detainee was due to appear in court on Friday, 13 May. DCS has urgently launched an investigation [to determine] the cause [of] and circumstances leading to his death," DCS spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said.

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News24 has reached out to the police for comment, which will be added once received. 

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson in KwaZulu-Natal, Natasha Kara, said the State had received a notification from Rendeiro's legal representative during the week, that she intended to withdraw.

"The State then requisitioned for Rendeiro to appear in the Verulam Magistrate's Court today (Friday) so that legal issues can be addressed before next week's pre-trial conference."  

Kara Added:

Prior to today's proceedings, the State was informed that Rendeiro had passed away. The NPA is awaiting confirmation of this. The magistrate adjourned the case to 20 May for the court to confirm Rendeiro's demise and to decide further on the matter.

Rendeiro, a fugitive, was previously denied bail by the Verulam Magistrate's Court in Durban.

Interpol officials arrested the 69-year-old in Umhlanga Rocks, Durban on 24 November 2021 at 07:00.

He had been on Interpol's red list since he fled Portugal soon after he was sentenced to 10 years in jail for tax evasion and money laundering to the tune of €31 million (more than R500 million).

News24 previously reported that he appealed the sentence, but the Portuguese authorities later realised he had absconded and issued a red notice.

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Police previously revealed that Rendeiro's arrest came after the head of the Judicial Police of Portugal, Luis Neves, told former national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole about Rendeiro during a bilateral meeting at the 89th Interpol General Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey.

Sitole committed that the police would track and trace the fugitive after it emerged he could be hiding in South Africa.

Interpol National Central Bureau members in Pretoria, acting on the Interpol red notice, traced Rendeiro to Umhlanga Rocks.

The police said the Portuguese authority welcomed the news of Rendeiro's arrest and sent words of gratitude and praise to Sitole and the police.

South African authorities also received an international warrant from Portugal for Rendeiro's arrest on charges of computer forgery, and the forgery of bulletins and minutes. For this, he was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison.

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